Acoma pots represent the apogee of traditional craft—the ideal marriage of function and form, perfected over generations of tutelage and practice. We are delighted to share this impeccable collection of Acoma pottery, produced by some of the art form’s most revered masters.
Swirling, black-and-white designs, hand-painted on thin, clay pottery, evoke thousands of years of culture and tradition. True to the past, these objects prove that simple methods can create objects of almost incomprehensible complexity. Atop a mesa on the Acoma Reservation, young potters carry on using ancestral methods. Water—needed to mix clay and activate mineral ink—is carried up from below. There is no electricity on the actual mesa. The artisans fire hand-formed pots of coiled clay—mixed with shards of pottery from previous generations to add strength—in ovens fueled by animal dung.
In the 1950s, four matriarchs born around the turn of the 20th century resurrected their ancestors’ ancient ceramic art. Marie Z. Chino, Lucy Lewis, Jesse Garcia and Juana Leno learned and taught, practiced and perfected skills that would lead to an artistic and economic awakening—bequeathing a rich heritage to a new generation.
Today, generations of Acoma artisans, many descended from the Four Matriarchs, chew on yucca plants to create paintbrushes and work freehand, without models, diagrams or digital patterns. The result is that young Acoma potters such as Paula Esteven are taking an art form to new heights—one that is always appreciative and respectful of their roots and history.
Photographs in order of sequence : Jim Franco; Edward S. Curtis’s ‘The North American Indian’;
Anna Morasutti; Gentl + Hyers; Adam Reichardt