Monday, March 26, 2012

Elegance from Earth: Hopi Pottery

The Heard Museum just opened a new exhibition titled Elegance from Earth: Hopi Pottery:

Elegance From Earth: Hopi Pottery is a new exhibit at the Heard Museum that tells the story of the centuries-old Hopi pottery tradition. The exhibit is presented by Peabody Energy.
"Hopi pottery is famous for its intricate painting," commented Heard curator Diana Pardue. "There is nothing else quite like it. By exhibiting both historic as well as contemporary work, Elegance From Earth will illustrate the great range and scope of this wonderful tradition."

Elegance From Earth explores the intertwined matriarchal artistic legacies of the Nampeyo, Naha and Navasie families. The Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo (c.1859-1942) was the first American Indian potter to be known and recognized by name. She revived a style of low-shouldered spherical jars based on those made at the village of Sikyatki in the 1600s, evolving detailed and complex designs inspired by Sikyatki pottery. In more recent times, her great-granddaughter Dextra Quotskuyva has received much recognition for her innovative designs and has taught some techniques to other family members, including her daughter Camille and her nephews Steve Lucas and Les Namingha.
The exhibit also showcases the work of another great Hopi pottery matriarch, Paqua Naha (Frog Woman), who developed a distinctive style of white-slipped pottery with black and deep-red designs that was later adopted by her daughter Joy Navasie, who passed the tradition on to her children and grandchildren. Other significant makers represented include Helen Naha and her two daughters Rainy and Sylvia. 

Opens March 24; on display through June 30, 2013.

Those of us in the shop are very familiar with this wonderful work, for it is still a vibrant art form being practiced by Hopi potters today and we are privileged to meet these artists on a regular basis when they bring their art in to sell. In addition, we are grateful to the collectors of older pieces who choose us to consign their treasures with. Here is work by some of the artists you can frequently find in our shop:

Vase by Fannie Nampeyo (1900-1987)
Daughter of Nampeyo

Vase by James Garcia Nampeyo (1958-)
Great-grandson of Nampeyo, grandson of Fannie

Vase by Priscilla Namingha (1924- 2008)
Great-granddaughter of Nampeyo, daughter of Rachel Namingha

Vase by Nyla Sahmie (1954-)
Daughter of Priscilla Nampeyo

Free form bowl by Elizabeth Qoyawayma White (1892- 1990)

Vase by Eunice "Fawn" Navasie (1920- 1992)

Turtle effigy by Dolly Joe "White Swan" Navasie
Daughter of Eunice Navasie

Small bowl by Helen Naha "Feather Woman" (1922-1993)
Daughter-in-law of Paqua Naha "First Frog Woman"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heard Museum Guild Indian Market was a Wonderful Success!

This March 3 and 4th the Heard Museum Guild hosted the 54th Annual Indian Fair and Market with more than 700 artists in attendance and perfect weather! Here are some photo highlights.

Each morning started with the presentation of of the colors
by the First Nations Warrior Society

The Demonstration area

Angie and Joe Reano (Santo Domingo)

Daniel "Sunshine" Reeves (Navajo)

Daniel's lovely wife, weaver Michelle Laughing Reeves

Glenda McKay (Athabascan- Cook Inlet Region)
and her 2nd Place award in Diverse Art Forms

Nelson Tsosie (Navajo)

Brenda Spencer (Navajo)

Geneva Scott Shabi (Navajo)

Charlene Reano (Santo Domingo)

Veronica and Dylan Poblano (Zuni)

Jovanna Poblano's (Zuni) beautiful beadwork jewelry

Earrings by Shawn Bluejacket (Shawnee)

Market Competition Award winners Troy Sice (Zuni), right and Ray Tsalate (Zuni), left

Troy and Ray's award winning carvings!

The shop was bustling as well. In addition to our own great merchandise, we had 3 guest vendors: Art Quintana (vintage jewelry), Terry DeWald (antique baskets), and Steve Getzwiller (Navajo rugs).

Art Quintana

Terry DeWald

Terry had incredible baskets!

Steve Getzwiller- his rugs were on the wall and to the right on the racks

The shop was bustling!

The Berlin Gallery also hosted artists Sarah Sense (Chitimacha/Choctaw), Dough Hyde (Nez Perce/Assiniboine/Chippewa) and Jake Meders (Mechoopda Maidu)  during the Market

Jake Meders (Mechoopda Maidu)

Sarah Sense (Chitimacha/Choctaw)

Doug Hyde (Nez Perce/Assiniboine/Chippewa)

It was a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 2, 2012


We are all familiar with bead necklaces and it is an easy enough task to go down to the local craft store and buy beads and "string" them ourselves.  But bead making, and particularly heishi, is a unique and time intensive art form practiced by a few master craftspeople.

What is heishi? The word (pronounced 'hee-shee') comes from the Keres language of the Santo Domingo (Kewa) Indians of the American southwest and means 'shell necklace'. Traditionally only shells were used to make these necklaces although now the term has come to include bead necklaces of other natural materials such as turquoise shaped in the same manner and having the same look as the original shell necklaces.

Heishi detail of a necklace by Marlene Rosetta (Santo Domingo)

This style of beadwork is thought to be the oldest form of jewelry from New Mexico and is still practiced today mostly among Native Americans of the the Santo Domingo (Kewa) and San Felipe Pueblos.  It predates the metalworking and lapidary techniques practiced by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni, which were introduced by Europeans.

In antiquity, shell material was brought from coastal locations through extensive trade networks that extended from California to South America. The human labor involved in transportation and manufacture meant these necklaces had tremendous value, which still carries over today.

The making of heishi is still a labor intensive process and starts with raw material, shell or natural stones, which the artist must cut into thin layers (shell material is usually already thin) then snip into small squares of roughly the same size. The artist then drills a small hole in the center of each square, holding onto the piece with tweezers.  The hole must be very small because any lateral movement during the sanding process will result in uneven discs and will not make a smooth strand.  The drilled pieces are strung on piano wire and the refining process can begin.  Modern-day heishi artists use electric lapidary equipment to facilitate the shaping process. Still, as the artist rounds the discs against a grinding wheel, the evenness and diameter of the beads are all controlled by hand. The thinness and small size of the beads means that some will break in the shaping process and must be discarded, even if there is only a small chip out of the surface.  Material such as natural turquoise can result in up to 70% loss, making these necklaces a much sought after luxury.

Heishi making materials
The material is slabbed and cut into strips then holes are drilled
Once the holes are drilled in the strips they are cut into squares and strung for sanding
Once the rough shaping is done the sanding and polishing can begin. This is accomplished with an electric sanding wheel through multiple courses of progressively fine sandpaper until they are silky smooth.  A final polish with polishing compound on a leather belt imparts a lustrous shine. At this point, the beads are ready for final stringing, either together or in combination with other hand finished beads.

The finished strand will feel completely uniform and silky smooth when run through the hand.

Shell and turquoise heishi necklace by Ramona Bird (Santo Domingo)

Detail of the necklace above

When looking for authentic American Indian handmade heishi, always buy from a reputable dealer or well-known artist in the field.  The demand for this beautiful art form is high and inferior imports abound.

Many thanks to heishi artist Joe Calabaza (Santo Domingo)
who kindly let me photograph his display for this article
(Heard Indian Market 2012)