P is for Pottery

Helbing Collection A-Z is a continuing feature of our blog. Each week for 26 weeks, I will highlight an item or items from our Helbing Collection of Native American Arts and Crafts.

This week we will look at the Hopi pottery in the collection.

According to wikipedia, “Hopi people make ceramics painted with beautiful designs, and Nampeyo was eventually considered one of the finest Hopi potters. Nampeyo learned pottery making through the efforts of her paternal grandmother. In the 1870s, she made a steady income by selling her work at a local trading post operated by Thomas Keam. She became increasingly interested in ancient pottery form and design, recognizing them as superior to Hopi pottery produced at the time. Her second husband, Lesou (or Lesso) was employed by the archaeologist J. Walter Fewkes at the excavation of the prehistoric ruin of Sikyátkiin the 1890s. Lesou helped Nampeyo find shards showing the old forms and Fewkes produced detailed illustrations of reconstructed pots.

Nampeyo developed her own style based on the traditional designs. Her work was purchased for the Smithsonian Institution and by collectors worldwide. In 1904 and 1907, she produced and sold pottery at the Grand Canyon lodge owned by the Fred Harvey Company. She and her husband traveled to Chicago in 1898 and 1910 to display her work.

Nampeyo began to lose her sight in 1925, but continued to form and shape pots by touch. These later pots were painted by members of her family, including her four daughters, who also became well-known potters. She worked with clay until her death in 1942.”

This is one of three Nampeyo pots in our collection.  Cleora wrote the following about this one, “This round Hopi bowl is colored in shades of orange, gradating from beige-orange to dark orange. This color is obtained in the firing of the originally yellow clay. The design, a typical Hopi geometrical one, is in black, obtained from mixing boiled down Tansy Mustard with hematite, and in reddish brown, which is probably obtained by applying iron earth wash. This bowl is 6 1/2 inches high and 7 inches in diameter. It was made by the greatest Hopi / Tewa potter, Nampeyo, with the aid of Daisy Naha.”

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