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April 16, 2011 on 2:28 am

Native American Pottery

The potter’s wheel was never used to produce Native American pottery by the tribal people before the coming of Europeans. Pottery was made, and is still made, using the coil method. It takes a real artist to build a pot in this way, from the bottom up. The coils are first attached to the flattened base, and meticulously smoothed. As more coils are added and smoothed, the pot begins to take shape. An expert artisan will produce a pot that is not only completely smooth, but that has walls of an even thickness. This gives the pot strength.

While every Native American tribe produced coil pottery, the most famous is that produced by the Southwest Indians. Some of the most easily recognized pottery pieces may be from the Navajo, Acoma and Hopi tribes. To help account for the distinctive look this pottery offers, geometric or stylized designs are used. A very interesting fact is that Native American pottery traditionally is made without the use of a kiln. After the pots are placed in a pit, a thick layer of sticks and brush are put on top. This is ignited, and the resulting fire will harden the pottery just as if it had been in kiln. After firing, the burnished pottery is often polished with a smooth river stone.

Native American pottery can be decorated with bold and beautiful designs. Some of the designs are etched right into the wet clay with a variety of hand tools. The patterns can vary from geometric patterns to patterns of animals and birds. Represented on the pottery are things such as eagles, turtles and cattle. On some pieces of pottery, floral patterns are found as well.

Horsehair is a very unique and interesting form of Indian pottery. To make this style, horsehair, feathers, seeds, grass stems, and other natural items are placed on the pot when it is still hot. Almost abstract designs are formed in this way, and pots where red clay has been used are especially attractive. Legend has it that the long hair of a native potter brushed by accident against a hot piece of pottery. It became a style of its own because the resultant design was so pleasing.

In almost any home, Native American pottery can make an artistic and decorating statement. The earthy color tones will offer a unique touch and theme. A home decorated in the Southwest style is the perfect spot for this type of pottery. A ranch house, cabin or any rustic dwelling, can home Indian pottery with great success. Just by adding a unique piece of this pottery to your decor, it will add a bit of Native American culture.

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