Native American Pottery Essays

Al Quoyawayma's Fine Art--Ceramics, Sculpture and Pottery--Al Qüoyäma is a Hopi engineer, who (in 1977) was one of the founders of American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He is also a fine artist. His son, John Quoyawayama --- a graphic artist specializing in computer graphics, animations and web page design, prepared this on-line gallery of his father's pottery. We will link more of John's interesting computer graphics under his Studio Q logo.

Nora Naranjo-Morse, Santa Clara Pueblo

--This links to excerpts from this clay sculptor's book of poetry, Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay, 1991, University of Arizona Press, $15.95 paperback, 800/426-3797. Her book is illustrated with photos of her clay sculpture. In the long intro essay, she describes her life and art, as an Indian woman artist who faced difficulties with non-traditional work such as caricatures of grotesque white tourists . She also tells how she derived strength and inspiration from her mother and the tradition of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery. The essay links to some of Nora's poems, which are illustrated with small clickbuttons that link to extra-large high-quality photos of all too few of her amazing, sometimes funny, clay sculptures. The 127-page book itself has 30 color plates, some humorous, some more traditional. Some of the funny ones are caricatures of tourists and other obnoxious white people, that are sort of like Koshare clowns in a way, if clowns wore gold spandex tights and floppy lady hats and sequin sunglasses.. Nora's poems are very fine. They speak strongly to all women everywhere, but especially to those of us who are walking various knife-edges between modern life and traditional values.

Nora's book is very highly recommended for classroom reading (7+ grades) and for gifts, especially for women and girls. Possibly certain really sensitive (as they describe themselves) Significant Other male types if you think they could handle it. Personally I think it would be wasted on most men, so give it to them, then steal it back when they leave it lying around untouched. There is a hardcover version also, $35. They take telephone credit card orders, and school purchase orders. The book excerpts are prepred by Karen Strom, part of her experimental on-line multimedia book project.

  • Mud Woman's First Encounter with the World of Money and Business--Link-to an autobiographical poem. Then link-to a big pic of Mudwoman herself here, sculpted by Nora . She's a self-image, a creation, a spirit of inspiration, Nora's very self. She looks somewhat like the misbegotten Mudhead clowns, but mainly she looks like a sloppy primitive woman that men leave home while they go off chasing svelte young ones. She holds two little koshare clowns. Are these her children? The children of wit, irony, humor expressing a tradition which inspires her art and life? This woman's tradition is large, it is the mother of the smaller, later, little ones she holds. This woman, bewildered, funny, sloppy, primitive, savage will have a hard time with Art Dealers and male pious frauds of all cultures. Hey you, YOU! Buy that book! Say you're a guy, you don't like this? Maybe it can help straighten you out. Hechetu welo, I have spoken (in Lakota, there).

Books by Nora Naranjo-Morse available from

Pueblo Cultural Center--The art pottery center of the western hemisphere is currently southwestern desert-Pueblo tribal potters, mostly women. This link tells of the cultural center and has a page of info on most Rio Grande pueblos.

CREDITS: :The logo of these art pages is "Two Fish" by Manitoulin Island Ojibwe-Odawa Martin Panamick, as explained in the Art Contents Menu page credits.

PAGE LOGO BOWL is Mimbres, around 1300-1450. Mimbres pottery, named after the Mimbres Valley of Mexico, was a product of the Mogollon culture, which began to cultuvate corn in the dry highlands of Mexico-New Mexico-Arizona around 2,000 BC. Mimbres pottery was made by the coil technique. The earliest examples -- from about 200 - 700 AD -- are delicate designs of black on white, some geometric abstracts, but many geometrized animal or spirit-figures. Later, polychrome pottery (like this) using red and black glazes was made. The amazing geometric designs have had much influence on Indian art of the southwest, as can be seen from many items in the pottery galleries here. This bowl is from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Juan Quesada photo by Mike Williams, Webmaster of the Mata Ortiz village site.

Maria Martinez (Poveka) (San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1881-1980) blackware pot, 1923. Maria rediscovered the ancient technique of airless firing to make blackware. Her husband Julian invented a method of decorating pots with matte black designs on shiny black. Her entrepreneur son Popovi Da also began self-marketing, partly cutting out the traditional southwest system of non-Indian "trading post" middlemen who took most of the profits from sales, though this still survives in a host of classy, profitable (to the owners) fine arts galleries in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Grandson Tony Da, an artist and potter, operates a pottery production facility and the family gallery today. That's a bear fetish by Tony; I found it in unfinished art appreciation lessons prepared for IAIA. Here's a brief bio about Maria Martinez by a gallery that says it replaces these stories every month. So let me know if it disappears. Back to pot collection if you jumped here from there.<

Towa (the People) clay sculpture by Nora Naranjo-Morse, photo from her Mud Woman book.

Why?, Roxanne Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo, life-size ceramic sculpture from Alan Houser Memorial Sculpture Graden, Phoenix, AZ. One of the most powerful pieces of art done by anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyculture.

Fantastic Owl, by Mike & Jackie Torivio, Acoma Pueblo husband-wife potter team. Is this one in the Heard Museum or in Karen Strom's personal collection? Very loveable to someone like me who loves owls.

--Karen Strom--Physics and Astronomy graphics professor, University of Massachusetts. Last is the place of honor in most every Indian tradition. Karen's big Index, of all Native resources she finds (or are reported to her) on the InterNet is of great value. Many photos and essays are incorporated as parts of an interesting on-line multimedia book, Voyage to Another Universe, structured as several journeys around the southwest. Maps, random-selections of multiple images, multiple cross-referenced linkages, art, personal encounters with people and places, phrases in spoken Navajo, make this project one of both aesthetic and technical interest. It is a fine learning resource for those who know little of the art and places of this big territory of Indian Country, which has such a powerful influence on the world of native art.

Books about Pueblo pottery available from

Books about Mata Ortiz pottery available from

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Essay on Clays and Pottery

2056 Words9 Pages

Clays and Pottery

Ceramicists, working either on a wheel or building by hand, define three main classes of clay bodies or mixtures: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. These are divided on the basis of firing temperatures and the character (hardness, vitrification and durability) of the final material. Each clay body is composed of a mixture of clay minerals and other materials such as sand or fine gravel and "fluxing" agents which affect the color and texture when fired.

Instead of discussing clays solely in terms of their chemical formulae, determined by x-ray diffraction, potters group clays into classes based on more general properties of the entire clay body, such as texture and color. One distinction potters make is between…show more content…

Within the secondary (sedimentary) clays, potters classify ball clay, fire clay, and low grade fire clay (or stoneware clay). Ball clays are highly plastic, and are added to clay bodies in order to increase plasticity. They vary widely, and their color, usually dark or reddish, is often a function of the amount of organic matter and/or iron in the clay body. Ball clays are more fusible than refractive and also tend to shrink appreciably during drying and firing. Since, according to Conrad, "the plasticity of clay is determined by particle shape and size, type of clay mineral, and the relative presence in the clay of soluble salts, absorbed ions, and organic matter (Conrad p. 9)," it remains unclear whether the type of clay minerals in the body are the defining factor in classifying a ball clay. I hypothesize based on the overall properties of the body that the clays are in the smectite class, allowing for a large shrink swell differential resulting in a high plasticity. Given that plasticity within a clay body is reliant on several factors, my assumption here is based on the idea that intraparticle properties of swelling during water absorbtion affects plasticity. The increase in the distance between the tetrahedral and octahedral layers with the absorbtion of water, would weaken the Van der Waals forces between the layers and allow for more slip. The question remains

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