In the Spotlight: Native American Hopi Pottery Artists

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Live Science recently curated a gallery of Native American Hopi pottery that highlights the creative genius of man using nature to engineer astounding works of art. The images are breathtaking.

The pottery works are built from the finest of clay soils sourced in the southwestern deserts of the United States. The soil is sedimentary in nature, forming over millions of years when seas washed the area in an ebb and flow pattern. Due to its high concentration of iron, the color of the clay usually changes from cream to red when fired over high heat.

Most Hopi Potters featured in the news article are descendants of centuries old Hopi Potters. The skill has been passed down from one generation to the next and the gift of creativity is in their blood.

Gwen and Dee Setalla, of Frog Woman/Feather Women Potters, for instance, come from a long line of White Slip polychrome potters. Another group that bears the last name “Setalla” carry on centuries of pottery making traditions dating back some 7,500 years, according to archaeologists. Per historians, this linkage originated out of the lower Amazon Basin in South America.

How It’s Done

In keeping with longstanding traditions, the Setallas, for example, dig the clay from sacred holes. A give and take nature unfolds as Hopi potters pray over breakfast and food sacrifices are left at the holes from which they receive rich high-quality soil.

When the clay is molded in the shape of choice, it is painted and embellished the traditional way and mirrors each potter’s clan. The paint is also sourced from nature, by boiling plants in different colors in a thick cake like texture, known as guaco. Even the paintbrush is natural as Yucca leaf brushes are chewed and trimmed to paint with.

The firing process is done in an open-air kiln fueled underneath by sheep manure – though not native to indigenous tribes. The livestock was first introduced in the 16th century and quickly became a staple in Native American tribes.

The potters then carefully go through a ritual of steps to ensure perfection, nurturing the clay as if it were a child.

The vases, pots, and ceramics serve both decorative and practical uses in everyday life, namely cooking,

Hopi Pottery is popular for their high-quality and beauty. These are sold to private buyers as well as museums across the world. Ultimately, these works of art remind us of what we can do with nature, imagination, and our bare hands. It’s the will of man, if you will.

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