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Storage Jar, Trinidad Medina, c. 1945
Storage Olla, Margaret Tafoya, 1940 & Wedding Jar, Nestor Silva, 1951
Melon Jar, Andrew Padilla, 1995 & Seed Jar, Dorothy Torivio, 1982
Jar, Lonnie Vigil, 1990


Pottery making is a sacred process. Clay vessels hold blessings for physical, spiritual, and emotional sustenance. Whether made for sale, religious or utilitarian use, potters imbue their work with energy, spirit and love.

Potters begin with a prayer of thanks to Mother Earth for the gift of clay. They ask that they be worthy of creating beautiful vessels. After gathering clay from the local clay pits, it is set out to dry. It is then ground, sifted and screened several times. Then it is soaked and excess water is removed. Temper is added and the clay is mixed to the desired consistency. It is now ready to use.

Throughout history, traditional Southwestern Indian pottery has not been made on a pottery wheel and this holds true today. The potters build the pieces by adding one clay coil at a time, one upon another. Coils are smoothed and shaped. Pots are then sanded, slipped, and polished. Decorations, using natural pigments, may be added or designs carved into the clay.

With patience and care, the potters guide the infant pots through adolescent stages to their trial by fire. "The firing process is always a gamble, a test of faith. The fire decides what the outcome will be," says Nancy Youngblood Lugo, Santa Clara potter. Whether the firing is a success or failure, the potters' respect for the earth and the process is reaffirmed.