We frequently travel to the Pueblos of the Zuni, Navajo, Hopi and Jemez and also we have gone to Old Mexico to purchase beautiful and unique pottery. We would like to share some of the facts and knowledge that we have learned about different types of pottery, their makers and the history and legends behind it. We hope that you will enjoy the following stories.
HISTORY BEHIND THE MAKING
Southwestern Indian pottery emerged from an ancient land and people. The pottery tradition among Native Americans can be traced back approximately 2000 years. Old pottery designs are gathered and used in making new designs. Traditional pottery is fired outdoors in wood or manure kilns. Pots are covered by pieces of metal or shards. Pottery making is a very time consuming process and becomes so personal to the potters.
THE JEMEZ historic tradition of pottery making dates back to 1200 A.D. when potters in the Jemez Mountains made black-on-white pottery. The Jemez "look" includes polish pink clay to a brownish red. Warm tones, multi-colored slips can be found on large jars, wedding vases and seed pots, and may include figurines of owls and clowns. Jemez pottery shows a strong orientation to fine-art quality.
THE ACOMA is world famous for its thin-walled white pottery. Acoma clay is plain white and clay sources remain a guarded secret. They specialize in geometric patterns that are pleasant to the eye, painted figures including parrots, rainbows, lizards, ladybugs, and animal designs such as the bear. Most commonly used colors on pottery designs are black or black and orange. Most designs on Acoma pottery are applied with a yucca brush, hand gathered and hand cut to just the right length and texture and most paints are still vegatal. This pottery is definitely worth collecting as an amateur or as a professional collector. The Acoma Pueblo is located in west-central New Mexico and is commonly known as "Sky City".
THE NAVAJO enjoy using animal forms on their pottery. Common animals such as the bear, lizard, turtles, and humming birds appear frequently on their pottery. They are very good at using geometric patterns and sky and earth tone colors to complement the pottery. Navajo pottery achieves its look after firing when the warm pots are brushed with heated pinon pitch. Navajo belief was that pottery making was a gift given to them by the Holy People before the Navajo was born to the present world.
THE HOPI reservation and Pueblos, located within the boundary of the large Navajo Reservation is located in the northeast corner of Arizona. The Hopi potters gather pottery remains from the village of Sikyatki. They grind the remains and mix it into clay as temper. Some Hopi potters use boldly carved scenes using black, red and orange designs, while others create pots of white clay using a variety of designs painted in a multitude of bright colors. Hopi is one of the oldest and most widely collected of all the pottery styles. It is descended from pottery made in the area for over a thousand years.
THE ZUNI Pueblo is located in New Mexico on the Arizona border and dates back to at least the 1500's. Zuni pottery is a blend of traditional and contemporary work and their designs include frogs, tadpoles, dragonflies, the Zuni "Rain bird", flower rosettes and deer. The designs and images painted on Zuni pottery tend to be bold. Most of the pottery shapes are of ancient origin. Black, brown or red paints are the most common colors used in the designs painted.
MATA ORTIZ POTTERY is hand made and stone polished, the designs are made using a brush of horse hair, or children's hair - sometimes with a single strand! It is tempered in an open fire of dry cow chips, wood and cottonwood tree bark at 950 to 1200 degrees. This is the critical part. They may work on a piece for weeks, or even months, and in the final process of baking, the pottery can be smoke stained, or even crack, ruining all their hard work on that item. Normally we "steer clear" of Mexican merchandise as it is perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be of poor quality. However, if one is to collect MATA ORTIZ POTTERY, it had better be from Mexico, as this is the only place that the real, MATA ORTIZ POTTERY is made! The Pueblo of Mata Ortiz is located in the Chihuahua Desert near the Sierra Madre Mountains, in the State of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. The designs are inspired from fragments of pottery found at this ancient site made by Indian tribes about 2500 years ago, and are made from natural materials and pigments which are found and processed by the villagers. The person who is responsible for re-discovering the "lost" art of making this pottery is a gentleman by the name of Juan Quezada. Because of his worldwide fame and the revival of this lost art, in 1999, the President of Mexico proclaimed Juan "el Premio Nacional de Ciencias y "Artes" (The National award in Science and Arts). This is the highest civilian award they can bestow upon someone. The entire small village now survives and prospers because of the re-discovery of pottery making by Juan Quezada. He has taught his family and others in the village his secrets and methods of producing this high quality pottery, and this is their economic means of survival. Juan now makes pottery only on special orders, and it may take a year or more for him to produce the pieces. A good pot of his will sell in the $18,000 or $28,000 range.
The pottery we have displayed on our web site is hand made to the best of our knowledge. The figurines are hand carved and painted using a variety of designs and colors. Remember you are not just purchasing a piece of pottery, you are purchasing a piece of beautiful art work that has taken many hours to create. In most cases, each piece of art work is individually signed by the creator.
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