To learn about contemporary Pueblo pottery, it is helpful to know some history and to see how the land is linked to each pueblo in New Mexico. Pueblo people have always been on their ancestral lands, unlike many Native peoples who were forcibly removed. During our SchoolArts/CRIZMAC Celebrating Pueblo Art and Culture seminar this July 3-9 in Santa Fe, participants will learn from Pueblo potters and other artists, work with Pueblo clay, participate in a traditional firing, and more.
Pottery making is a 2000 year old tradition in New Mexico. The most distinctive prehistoric pottery in Mimbres black on white from southwestern New Mexico, A.D. 1000-2000. Precisely drawn and painted animals, birds, and mythical creatures were centered inside wide, paint-rimmed bowls. Many Mimbres pieces have been found at burial sites with a hole broken through the bottom. This has been interpreted by some as a ritual "killing" of the bowl so that its spirit may be freed to accompany the dead, but the actual meaning cannot be determined.
Of all the arts practiced by the Pueblo Indians of today, pottery has the most direct and historical ancestral connections. Pueblo Indian silversmithing, weaving, sculpture, and easel painting have been introduced or adapted in many ways through Hispanic and Anglo influences, but pottery traditions are prehistoric. Hundreds of pueblos were producing and trading pottery when the Spanish first arrived in the area.
The availability of industrial goods made possible by the arrival of the railroad replaced the manufacture of pottery for domestic use in the pueblos. Yet the railroad also created a new market for decorative and art pottery produced for tourists, dealers, and collectors. Aesthetic characteristics of the pottery revival were influenced by anthropologists, art collectors, artists, and museum personnel who were concerned with perfection of technique and execution of design rather than function and made available to potters the design traditions of prehistoric pieces.
Until Maria and Julian Martinez began signing their works in the 1920s, Pueblo potters had been predominantly anonymous. Respect and recognition for the Pueblo artist increased competition among both potters and patrons, reinforced specialization of design for pottery-producing pueblos, and established aesthetic and critical guidelines while simultaneously providing opportunities for economic and artistic success.
Each Pueblo uses the raw materials of their pueblo lands to make their clay. The piece you see here is a dough bowl from Santo Domingo Pueblo, made from their characteristic red, black, and cream natural materials. Santo Domingo is known for its heavy, bold geometric designs. Underbodies are slipped in an all-over red color. Designs are usually black, painted over a cream background on the outside upper half of the rim. Rim tops are painted black, broken at some point by a small gap, called a ceremonial break. Contemporary Pueblo potters may make traditional, transitional, or transformational designs.
Please join us in Santa Fe July 3-9 for a memorable, personally enriching experience. You'll stay at the luxurious Inn of the Governors in downtown Santa Fe, make new friends, and have the experience of a lifetime. To register or to learn more, click here.