Native American Pottery Crafts - The Wild West (2022)

Native American Pottery Crafts - The Wild West (1)
The Old
– Three ancient tribes lay the foundation for the Indian pottery created today.

As far back as B.C. 300, the Hohokam (HO-ho-kawm) people who populated what is now southern Arizona were learning pottery skills from Mexican potters to the south. Many pieces of the red-on-gray or red-on-beige pottery with geometric designs has been found on Hohokam archeological sites.

The descendents of the Hohokam – the Pima (PEE-ma) and Tohono O’Odham (TO-na O TA-hm) – aren’t known for the fine pottery of their ancestors, however. Both Pima and Tohono O’Odham people are known as master basket makers.

(Video) Native American Pottery

The ancient Mogollon (MUGGY-own) lived in the higher areas along the Arizona/New Mexico border, and the pottery of these people included brown and red ware with geometric designs to red-on-white and black-on-white pieces bearing images of fish, deer, birds, insects and rabbits. Eventually the Mogollon drifted north toward the lands of the Ancient Puebloan Culture (formerly referred to as the Anasazi) and were assimilated into other groups.

The Ancient Pueblo Culture people of northern New Mexico, southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah began as basket makers and evolved into potters around the 5th century AD. The rough and thoroughly original early examples of these pots unearthed in recent times suggest these potters were self-taught and not influenced by the techniques of either the Hohokam or Mogollon. Over the years the potters produced pieces of black-on-white, white ware and polychrome.

While pottery from Old World Europe was created with the use of a wheel, kiln and glazes, Indian pottery of old was baked in fires in the earth and covered with rich clay slips rather than glazes.

(Video) How to Make Primitive Pottery

The New – The Four Corners region of the United States and the pueblos of New Mexico offer the most abundant sources of American Indian pottery today. Much of it still reflect the ancient pieces of the Hohokam, Mogollon and Ancient Pueblo Culture, in tribute to the mothers, aunts and grandmothers who were not only artists, but teachers. The pottery of Jemez Pueblo potters today uses the ancient techniques of the Pecos Pueblo and old Mimbreno designs are found in many pieces of contemporary Acoma Pueblo pottery. It is fairly obvious that the potters of today realize what they create will be part of the history of Indian pottery tomorrow.

Much of today’s pottery is made the same way it has been for generations: the clay is dug from the earth; dried on sheets of tin; soaked in a tub for two to four days; broken down in the water to a soupy mixture; and strained on a large screen, keeping only what passes through the screen. Water is then added to the sifted clay until it reaches the consistency of a milk shake. The “tempering sand” or “tuff” is a very important part of the pottery too, with some potters traveling 100 miles or more to find just what they are looking for. The tuff is passed through a sieve until it reaches a state of fine powder. The clay and the tuff are then mixed until the desired texture for a piece is reached. In anticipation of the high tourist season, many potters will prepare clay for many pieces at a time.

Pots are then formed on a lap board or table, many using natural old shaping tools and spoons made from gourds or shell. Most pieces are then pit fired in the earth in manure-smothered fires. The end result of the firing is always a surprise.

Styles of Indian Pottery
:

(Video) American Indian Arts Marketplace

Taos and Picuris Pueblos

The Taos (TAH-ohs) and Picuris (Pee-CUR-is) pueblos of Northern New Mexico are famous for their micaceous, unpainted pottery. Though very simple in design, the mica in the clay makes the pieces appear to shimmer. Taos produces plain pots that appear golden in color with no design or a single design. Picuris pots are generally brown or reddish orange in color. Shapes vary.

Tewa Pueblos

  • San Juan – The potters of the San Juan Pueblo combine old and new pottery styles. Many feature a middle band placed on a polished red rim copied from sherds of ancient pots. A slip of micacecous clay makes it shimmer. Some pots are the reverse, with the middle band being plain and unpolished sandwiched between reds with polychrome designs. Shapes vary.
  • Santa Clara – It is said that long ago, during a tremendous drought, the people were dying of thirst when a bear appeared and led them to water. To honor that bear the Santa Clara potters place his paw print on their pots along with other symbols and designs such as: the water serpent to reflect water sources such as streams and rain; the kiva steps to represent the ceremonial pit; feathers as respect for the birds; rain and rainbows for the strong winds that bring storms. Santa Clara potters create in earth tones of yellow, beige, red, white, gray and matte black on high polished blackware. Blackware was created by the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso potters more than 300 years ago. The earth firing gives it the high-polished jet black finish. Shapes vary, but many double-spouted “wedding vases” come from Santa Clara. Pottery is pivotal to the economic and social structure of the pueblo.
  • San Ildefonso – Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo is perhaps the most famous of all Indian potters. She was a teacher as well, offering to share her gifts with many who wished to study. Her matte black designs painted on high-gloss black pottery are legendary. The water serpent, an image to honor rain and thanksgiving for water given to dry lands, is a San Ildefonso trademark. Sgraffito, two-tone red, polychrome, carved pottery, matte black, and red and blackware are all created by San Ildefonso potters. Shapes vary.
  • Nambe and Pojoaque – Although pottery for art and function died out among the Nambe (Nam-BAY) at the turn of the 20th century, around 1980 a few new potters moved from Nambe to Pojoaque (Po-WAH-key) and began generating collectable figures like the storytellers of Cochiti Pueblo, wedding vases and small jars.
  • Tesuque – The people of Tesuque Pueblo today create largely for the tourist trade, creating storytellers in bright colors, “rain gods” and polychrome vessels.

Middle Rio Grande Pueblos

(Video) Native American Pottery: Southwest Indian Foundation

  • Cochiti – The Cochiti Pueblo is home to more than 200 potters, and of the 200 at least one quarter produce pottery figures, most prominently the storyteller. Helen Cordero made the very first storyteller in 1964 in memory of her grandfather who would gather the children around him and tell stories. Other figures include images such as a turtle taking children for a ride upon its back.
  • Santo Domingo – Birds, flowers and simple, bold geometrics are favored by the potters of Santo Domingo. Here religious rules prohibit the depiction of human figures or any sacred designs on pottery that is intended for sale. While the Zia potters produce birds in motion, the Santo Domingo artists portray birds in repose. Shapes vary.
  • Zia – The potters of Zia Pueblo are unique in that they are the only ones who temper their clay with the volcanic basalt rock to make a very hard pot that is then stone polished and painted with black. Typical of Zia designs are feathers, prayer sticks, spiderwebs, clouds, lightning and birds. It is a bird similar in appearance to a roadrunner, that is the Zia pottery hallmark. The state symbol of New Mexico is a stylized image of the sun that was taken from an old Zia ceremonial pot. The symbol is often simply referred to as a “Zia.”
  • Jemez – Jemez produces a lot of pottery for the tourist trade, and its soft colors appeal to many. Often the designs depict the link between the ancient Pecos people and the Jemez. Designs are painted on red clay pots with lead-based paint that melts to a shiny glaze after firing. Jars, bowls and figures, including nativity scenes, are most common.

Acoma/Laguna/Isleta Pueblos

  • Acoma – The Acoma, too, create largely for the tourist trade. Acoma clay is dark, nearly as dense as shale, and must be pulverized into a fine powder before being mixed with temper. The pots are known for their thin, hard-fired walls, stone polish and elaborate paint. Parrots appear frequently on Acoma pottery, symbols of the sun, south or great ancestors.
  • Other Mimbres-style (Mimbres being people who lived in southwestern New Mexico AD 950-1150) designs such as lizards, insects and animals have become synonymous with Acoma pottery.
  • Laguna and Isleta – Before 1830 the pottery of the Laguna resembled that of the Acoma, but today’s style of white-slipped polychrome adorned with bold paint in simple design was created after that time. Gladys Paquin and Stella Teller are two famous Laguna potters.

Pottery Purchasing Guide:

The deep and true value of a pot fashioned by an American Indian potter is the time, effort, energy and relationship to offered to that pot by its creator. When choosing pottery for purchase, here are a few things to look for:

(Video) Earth and Fire: Anasazi Style Pottery

  • The inside and outside of the pot should be smooth, even and balanced with no pits, lumps or bubbles.
  • Designs should be symmetrical and well spaced, with all large areas filled in and covered completely.
  • Carvings into the pottery should be the same depth throughout.
  • Black smudges should not appear on redware and beige spots should not appear on blackware.
  • A signature does not necessarily indicate high quality as some of the best potters choose not to sign their work.

Prices can range from $10 to thousands. Often a tiny piece can be high in price because of the difficulty in working very small is greater than a “regular” size piece. Like any investment, it’s best to look at a lot before selecting.

FAQs

What Native American tribes used pottery? ›

These tribes include Cherokees, Iroquois, Cheyenne, and Shoshone. Each with their own unique characteristics. Some of these tribes created designs on their pots, bowls and jugs that could identify them as belonging to a particular tribe or region.

Which Native American tribe was most famous for their pottery? ›

In this century, Navajos have achieved renown in weaving, silversmithing and jewelry making, basketry, and painting; probably more than in any other Indian culture, Navajo potters are enveloped in surrounding aesthetic inspirations.

What did Native Americans use pottery for? ›

The clay was a canvas for the Native Americans to express themselves through symbols and designs or signify belonging to a specific tribe or family. The pots ranged from use in everyday life, to sacred spiritual ceremonies.

How did Native Americans decorate their pottery? ›

Horsehair pottery was a method of putting horsehair on the pottery during firing to make decorative marks. Glazing like modern pottery was rarely used, but Native Americans did paint their pottery with slip and other materials.

What is Native American pottery called? ›

Pueblo pottery, one of the most highly developed of the American Indian arts, still produced today in a manner almost identical to the method developed during the Classic Pueblo period about ad 1050–1300.

Did Native Americans create pottery? ›

Most of us already know that, like many early forms of Native American art, pottery first developed out of necessity in Native American society. Over time, it has evolved from just a means of storage into a distinguished representation of cultural artistry. Native American pottery can be found all over the world today.

What is the oldest American pottery? ›

The oldest pottery in North America comes from Stallings Islands in Georgia (Claflin, 1932) and is believed to date as far back as 3,800 years ago (Sassaman, 1998). Pottery in northwest Florida is believed to be nearly as old, while pottery in Maryland dates to approximately 3,000 years ago (Manson, 1948).

When did Native Americans start making pottery? ›

The first pieces of pottery made by the Native Americans can be dated back to about 4000 B.C. While many tend to associate Native American culture with what we now know as the American Southwest, that's not where the first pottery pieces were discovered.

What is Hohokam pottery? ›

Hohokam pottery tends to be constructed of buff or light brown clay, and they were made using the paddle-and-anvil technique. Hohokam pottery is often decorated with red geometric designs, usually banded or allover patterns of repeated small motifs.

How was native pottery made? ›

Native pottery was made by hand. Potters dug clay from local deposits and then mixed it with a temper that consisted of small particles of sand, shell, animal bone, pulverized stone, ground potsherds, or some combination of these materials.

What is Native American art called? ›

Native American art, also called American Indian art, the visual art of the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas, often called American Indians.

How did natives fire pottery? ›

In pit-firing, the pot is placed in a shallow pit dug into the earth along with other unfired pottery, covered with wood and brush, or dung, then set on fire whereupon it can harden at temperatures of 1400 degrees or more. Finally, the ceramics surface is often polished with smooth stones.

What is Mimbres pottery? ›

The Classic Mimbres pottery tradition is characterised by painted bowls decorated with geometric and figural designs in black on a white ground. The bowls are usually found in human burials and appear to be used to cover the face or head of the deceased.

In what part of America was pottery was made? ›

The most important North American pottery was made in the southwest—an area including Arizona, New Mexico, and also parts of Utah and Colorado.

What was the name of one of the people groups who created pottery? ›

The Acoma pueblo is best known for their unique pottery style and method, utilizing techniques which have been in practice since the Acoma establishment in 1150 A.D (when the Aztec civilization was established around this time in Mexico, Southwestern Native American art was already at its peak).

How do you identify Pueblo pottery? ›

How to Identify and Price Cochiti and Tesuque Pueblo Pottery (Part 1)

How can you tell Hopi pottery? ›

Indian Pottery How To Identify Early Hopi Pottery - YouTube

How do you identify Indian pottery shards? ›

Pots made from lining baskets with clay have a distinctive texture to the outside of the shard. Indentations left from fibers and woven basket designs show up on some shards. Examine the decoration on the outside of the shard. Look for designs in different colors and if there was a glaze used.

Did the Lakota make pottery? ›

Lakota artists also make pottery, star quilts, and ceremonial peace pipes carved from catlinite.

How did the Apache make pottery? ›

Because Apaches were seminomadic and moved frequently, their manufacture of pottery wasn't as refined as their basketry. Pottery was made using the coiling method which involved making a shallow base out of clay and building up the walls by adding coils of clay.

How did Native Americans make bowls? ›

With many tribes bowls are made from large knots, being hollowed out with fire and the knife. The most ancient permanent cooking utensil of the Plains tribes was a bowl made by hollowing out a stone. The Blackfeet and Cheyenne say that in very early times they boiled their meat in bowls made of some kind of soft stone.

Where was the oldest known pottery found? ›

A team of Israeli, Chinese, and American scholars says it has found ceramic remains in a cave in China's Hunan province that are from 15,400 to 18,300 years old. That's at least 1000 years earlier than other pottery fragments from the same region, which were previously thought to be the oldest in the world.

What is the oldest pottery in the world? ›

Pottery fragments found in a south China cave have been confirmed to be 20,000 years old, making them the oldest known pottery in the world, archaeologists say.

How far back does pottery date? ›

Pottery has been around since the ancient people roamed the earth. As one of the oldest human inventions, the practice of pottery has developed alongside civilization. The earliest ceramic objects have been dated as far back as 29,000 BC.

What artifacts are the Hohokam best known for? ›

The Hohokam are probably most famous for their creation of extensive irrigation canals along the Salt and Gila rivers. In fact, the Hohokam had the largest and most complex irrigation systems of any culture in the New World north of Peru.

Did the Hohokam make pottery? ›

The Hohokam are well known for the pottery they made from roughly AD 500 to 1450, which was used for storage, food preparation, cooking, and serving tasks as well as ceremonial purposes. Over the past 30 years, Desert Archaeology employees have analyzed tens of thousands of sherds recovered from hundreds of sites.

What happened to the Hohokam? ›

The Hohokam people abandoned most of their settlements during the period between 1350 and 1450. It is thought that the Great Drought (1276–99), combined with a subsequent period of sparse and unpredictable rainfall that persisted until approximately 1450, contributed to this process.

Did Native Americans have pottery wheels? ›

Though Native American pottery styles, firing and finishing methods, and decorative patterns varied widely, the basic technology did not--as far as I know no tribe ever used pottery wheels or other spinning instruments. All of them made coil and pinch pots by hand, as their descendants still do today.

Did Native Americans have bowls? ›

Wooden dishes were used also by the Iroquois tribes. Bowls and ladles of Algonquian types occurred among the Winnebago, Omaha, Man- dan, and probably other tribes of the Siouan stock.

What is the oldest Native American art? ›

9250–8550 BCE: Monte Alegre culture rock paintings created at Caverna da Pedra Pintada become the oldest known paintings in the Americas. 8900–8200 BCE: Cooper Bison skull is painted with a red zigzag in present-day Oklahoma, becoming the oldest known painted object in North America.

What kind of art did Native Americans create? ›

Indigenous American visual arts include portable arts, such as painting, basketry, textiles, or photography, as well as monumental works, such as architecture, land art, public sculpture, or murals.

What type of art did Native Americans make? ›

Native art includes baskets, beadwork, quillwork, ceramics, and sculpture. Each one of these took great skill and differed from region to region.

What is Pueblo pottery made of? ›

Traditional pueblo pottery is handmade from locally dug clay that is cleaned by hand of foreign matter. The clay is then worked using coiling techniques to form it into vessels that are primarily used for utilitarian purposes such as pots, storage containers for food and water, bowls and platters.

How did the Cherokee make pottery? ›

Like most Native American tribes, the Cherokee did not use pottery wheels or spinning instruments, but made coil and pinch pots by hand. Artists decorated their pottery by pressing smooth stones, wood or bone paddles, and other hand tools into the wet clay to incise designs.

When was pottery invented in the Americas? ›

The earliest known pottery in North America has been identified in the Southeastern United States and dated at about 4,000 years of age.

How did Native Americans fire pottery? ›

In pit-firing, the pot is placed in a shallow pit dug into the earth along with other unfired pottery, covered with wood and brush, or dung, then set on fire whereupon it can harden at temperatures of 1400 degrees or more. Finally, the ceramics surface is often polished with smooth stones.

What kind of pottery did the Aztecs make? ›

The pottery of the Aztecs (1325 AD - 1521 AD) was extremely varied. They made all types of earthenware, plates, jugs, cups, pots, mostly with red and orange clay. The Mixtecs stood out for their polychrome lacquer ceramics, in which after polishing a piece, they would cover it with white stucco and then paint it.

What kind of crafts did the Cherokee make? ›

Basketry, pottery, stone carving, wood carving, bead working, finger weaving, and traditional masks are a few of the timeless forms of Cherokee art that endure today. Each piece of authentic Cherokee artwork comes from traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Where did the Cherokee get their clay? ›

For centuries, the Cherokee have gotten their clay from the Smokey Mountains which provides the fine-grained, dark brown clay used in pipes as well as the courser, light grey clay used for bowls and pots. The vessels are built using layers of stacked clay coils.

What is the oldest American pottery? ›

The oldest pottery in North America comes from Stallings Islands in Georgia (Claflin, 1932) and is believed to date as far back as 3,800 years ago (Sassaman, 1998). Pottery in northwest Florida is believed to be nearly as old, while pottery in Maryland dates to approximately 3,000 years ago (Manson, 1948).

How was native pottery made? ›

Native pottery was made by hand. Potters dug clay from local deposits and then mixed it with a temper that consisted of small particles of sand, shell, animal bone, pulverized stone, ground potsherds, or some combination of these materials.

What culture invented pottery? ›

Pottery is thought to have originated in Japan around 16,000 years ago, but the numbers produced vastly increased 11,500 years ago, coinciding with a shift to a warmer climate.

What makes pottery black? ›

The penetrated moisture combined with organic matter (Tea & coffee, oil, fat, food, dust, etc.) evolves into a bacteria that typically is brown or black in color present between the glazed craze lines or in the clay body under the glaze.

Did Native Americans have pottery wheels? ›

Though Native American pottery styles, firing and finishing methods, and decorative patterns varied widely, the basic technology did not--as far as I know no tribe ever used pottery wheels or other spinning instruments. All of them made coil and pinch pots by hand, as their descendants still do today.

What is Mimbres pottery? ›

The Classic Mimbres pottery tradition is characterised by painted bowls decorated with geometric and figural designs in black on a white ground. The bowls are usually found in human burials and appear to be used to cover the face or head of the deceased.

What is Inca pottery? ›

Incan Pottery

One of the forms of art they are most known for is pottery. Back in the 1400s BCE they did not have the luxury of using a potter's wheel and had to create all pottery by hand. They used natural clay and added in materials such as sand, rock, and shell to help prevent the clay from cracking.

How was Mayan pottery made? ›

It is believed that the Mayan's did not throw their pots on a wheel, instead they used techniques using slabs, pinch-pots and hand building. Clay was gathered from open river systems and mixed with ash, stones and sand to add strength and durability to the clay.

What is Mexican Tonala pottery? ›

The ceramic production in Tonalá, known as the authentic mestizo ceramic is symbolic of Mexico's identity. Made of burnished clay or scented clay, these artistic objects are created for ordinary and decorative use. The tradition comes from the Tonalteca group, which used clay to produce polished forms.

Videos

1. Native American Pottery Making
(At Home With Didiayer)
2. Western Trading Post TV Season 1 Ep 4-Tommy Jackson, Buffalo Soldier, Pottery, Fred Harvey, Buckles
(Western Trading Post TV)
3. Digging Ancient Native American WEST VIRGINIA Pottery - History Channel - Archaeology - Arrowheads
(Rocks Cousteau)
4. The Native American Art of Colorado’s Toh Atin Gallery
(Today's Wild West)
5. Maria Martinez: Indian Pottery of San Ildefonso (Documentary, 1972, VHS)
(Analog Anthropology Archive)
6. What Native American Tribes Were Eating In the Old West
(Weird History)

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