Native American Art Heading
Another glaze pottery type, the Hawlkuh Polychrome was introduced after the Spanish
arrived. The six types of pottery have names that correspond to the names of Ashiwl
villages in the vicinity of modem Zuni villages: Hoshotauthla, K_na, Pinnawa, Kechlpawan,
Matsaki and Hawlkuh.

Although six pottery types are named after specific Ashiwi Indian villages, three additional
decorated pottery types were developed from Ashiwi Polychrome. Two are named after
specific villages: Kiapkwa Polychrome, named after Kiapkwainaquin, an ancient village
located near the modem village of Ojo  Caliente; and Zuni Polychrome, named after the
Spanish type. These three types were made only at Zuni Pueblo, or where the Zuni people
lived temporarily.

Significant changes in the styles of Indian pottery made at the Ashiwl Pueblos have
occassionally repeatedly in the past 700 years. Some were technical developments, such as
the abandonment of glaze paints and adoption of matte paints, or vice versa. Others
involved alterations.

In the forms of vessels or the ways pigments were applied (different patterns and motifs).
The changes that the Zuni made was around and after 1900 primarily involved shape and
form, but not materials until very recently.

The volume of pottery making at the Zuni Peublo Indian declined steadily, in the early
1900s, due to the availability of manufactured metal and ceramic wares imported from
the eastern United States.  

The Laguna Pueblo Indians made pottery with geometic shapes and zig-zag designs. Flowers,
foliage, and naturalistic and stylized birds are also featured on many of their jars.
They also decorated their pottery with elaborate bird images. Otherwise, they are similar
to the Zuni and Hopi potter's work as far as firing, shaping techniques, and materials used.
Image of southwestern pottery
Their Native American artists used the glittering light brown or golden clay to produce
ceramics similar to those of the nearby Jicarilla Apache. Fire-cloudings were common on the
shiny surfaces of pots, and punched and applique elements were the main forms of artistic
decoration in their pottery.

Historically, the art of making and use of Native American pottery has been one of the
important identifying characteristics of the Southwestern Indian Pueblos, past and
present, from as far back as 300 B.C., when pottery first appeared among the Mogollon.

Most authorities believe that the art of pottery making technology spread northward from
Mesoamerica, through the Mogollon and their western neighbors (the Hohokam), to the
Anasazi Native Americans in the third century AD. There is evidence that this early
pottery art often was formed using a basket as support, a process that left distinct
impressions on the soft clay.

Most of the Pueblo Native Americans today use the same basic technology of
pottery-making they have for centuries. Clay is dug, often in dry lumps, out of traditional
clay sources known to each village. It is then soaked and cleaned in ways that vary little
from town to town. Pots are coil-built, with occasional use of slab-and-pinch techniques;
then, the surfaces are finely finished by scraping, wiping, and polishing.

Finally, Native American art designs are added in slips, natural paints, and manipulations of
the clay itself. A few potters use commercial paints, but most traditionalist potters
disparage them and opt for pigments made from local plant and mineral sources.

A majority of Native American pottery makers prefer the traditional method of dung-firing
in outdoor kilns constructed around the pots, though the electric kiln is known and used by
some artistic potters, because of its greater predictability and the larger number of
pottery pieces that survive kiln-firing. The higher temperatures of the electric kilns
produce harder pottery, which then may be thinner walled than dung-fired art pieces.

Despite the basic technological similarities in the art of pottery making in Native American
tribes, the great variety of construction, decoration, and firing techniques available to the
modern artistic potter means that a piece of art in clay may take anytime from a few days
to many months to complete.

Interestingly, in the Southwestern Native American tribes, the women normally created
the pots, and the men decorated them artistically with designs like the water serpent(or
avanyu), feathers, simple geometrical patterns, and life art forms.

These decorative art elements were used on both the black-on-black matte and carved
wares and on their red counterparts. They remain characteristic of the types of artistic
pottery today in the Native American tribes.

At least nine distinct types of decorated pottery were made in the Southwest before the
Spanish arrived in 1539. Four utilized glaze paints in their decoration, while one
non-glazetype was introduced before the arrival of the Spanish and continued to be made
after they came.
The pottery of the Keres-speaking Indian Santo Domingo,
Cochiti, San Felipe, Laguna, and Santa Ana Native Americans,
usually featured elaborate black or black-and-red natural and
geometrical motifs on a white or cream background.

The art of pottery making has remained an active tradition at
most of these conservative Indian pueblos, with the exception
of Laguna and Santa Ana Native Americans, where the art nearly
died out in the 1940s, and in the San Felipe Indian Pueblo, where
the art of ceramic making has been scarce since about 1700.

Art and pottery has been highly influenced by the Pueblo Native
Americans in the Southwest. However, a fact not widely known
was that the Southwestern Pueblo Native Americans borrowed
techniques from the Apache.  
Overview and Development of Native
American Pottery Making
copyright 2010