Nampeyo pots are sufficiently rare that when they appear in the literature they are generally presented singularly as specimen pieces. The 53 “Nampeyo” pots in this collection are a sufficient number to allow us to try something new. This essay will compare and rank the quality of “the Old Lady’s” work using these 53 pots as a database.
There’s quite a range of material here. Several of these pots are masterpieces of Nampeyo’s design and, although unsigned, announce their maker clearly and loudly. At the other extreme there are at least two tourist trinkets in the collection that I have confidence were made by “The Old lady” but have little aesthetic value except that they document the range of the Master’s work. One pot is “signed” as by Nampeyo but is of a quality or provenance that is so discordant with what I know about her pottery that I doubt if it is a product of her hands. This pot is left “unranked.” My ranking of Nampeyo pots will use the remaining 52.
There is some virtue, I believe, in having such a range of “Nampeyo” pottery in this collection. David Viscott in his Lectures provides the perspective I intend:
The great works of art and literature need every other work to give them proportion. If every work were “wonderful,” then no work would be “wonderful.”
Determining whether a particular pot is “by Nampeyo” is an uncertain business. As Marti Cusick (Struever) notes:
It is exceedingly difficult to ascertain whether specific pottery specimens were constructed and painted by Nampeyo. The roles played by Lesou and her daughters; the prodigious output of other potters emulating Nampeyo’s style; the artist’s own variations beyond familial and tribal boundaries give rise to serious problems of attribution. Pottery was not signed. Records are scarce and incomplete. (1984:9)
She then defines four classifications of attribution for pottery believed to be by Nampeyo:
- Documented as made by Nampeyo
–Where tangible collection records, or photographs, with names and dates exist.
- Attributed to Nampeyo
–Where opinion based on consultation with other students of Nampeyo, and consideration of design elements, layouts and construction of known Nampeyo vessels indicates the likelihood of the work being hers.
- Possibly by Nampeyo, or made in her style
–Where judgments, determined by the appearance of known design motifs and compositions, leave some doubt as to whether the unit was done by her or someone reproducing the Nampeyo style.
- Probably painted by a member of Nampeyo’s family
–Where certain patterns appear that have become classic Nampeyo family designs there is the possibility that these motifs and layouts may have developed after Nampeyo lost her eyesight, possibly by 1920. There is strong evidence that she continued to mold pottery for a considerable time after she could no longer see to paint it (1984:9).
Using Marti’s criteria, there are currently 52 pots in the collection that meet the minimal standard: 52 pots that I judge to have been significantly touched by Nampeyo. Some of these pots were both formed and painted by “the Old Lady,” some were formed by Nampeyo and painted by a daughter. Of those painted by a daughter, some are signed, some are not. (For detailed discussion of each pot, see the catalog entries.)
I will grade these pots according to the following criteria: 1) form, 2) painting, 3) rarity, and 4) size.
Nampeyo’s genius was more in the design than in the forming of her pots, so the painting of her pots (generally) carries the most weight in my evaluation.
As detailed in the discussion in Appendix C, there are six defining characteristics of Nampeyo’s mature painting style:
- A tension between linear and curvilinear elements often represented as a contrast between heavy and delicate elements;
- A deliberate asymmetry of design;
- The use of color to integrate design elements;
- The use of empty (negative) space to frame the painted image;
- The use of a thick above a thin framing line on the interior rim of her bowls;
- Confident, bold, and impulsive painting.
A pot that displays all six of these characteristics is generally more striking than one that displays fewer than the full set. On the other hand, several Nampeyo pots predate her “Sikyatki Revival” style and cannot fully be judged by these criteria. For these earlier pots the “rarity” factor weights heavily.
Overall aesthetic is a function of 1) form plus 2) painting. Rarity may be due to an unusual shape, design, ethnographic use or age. Overall size matters some, but I would grade a small great pot much higher than a clunky large one.
As in school, grades run from “A” (excellent), “B” (good), “C” (average), and “D” (poor). I hope I have avoided buying any “F” Nampeyo pots.
Speaking at a Recursos de Santa Fe conference on “Historic and Modern Pueblo Pottery” on October 18, 1990, J.J. Brody spoke about what makes a pueblo pot “great.” I cited his remarks in Appendix C, but they are worth repeating here:
The symbolism,” he said, is “below the level of consciousness.” The form is simple and basic geometric; the painting reinforces the form; the painting lines are crisp, controlled and harmonious; and “most of all” the pot is “dynamic,” a source of perpetual discovery. He concluded: “you should feel the handwriting and character of the artist (1990b).”
That’s an “A” pot.
Pots formed and painted by Nampeyo:
A gorgeous pot with the iconic Nampeyo aesthetic fully realized that represents the very highest achievement of Hopi/Tewa ceramics would be graded “A.” Pots that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “A” might still receive a grade of “A” if shape, design, use, or age is particularly unusual.
A pot that was a “good” example of Nampeyo’s craft because it clearly demonstrated her unique talent, but was not the very best aesthetic (not her very best work) would receive a “B.” A pot that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “B” might still receive a grade of “B” if its shape, design, use or age is particularly unusual.
A pot that was arguably by Nampeyo but with a design that seems distracted, rushed or applied without much care would be graded “C.” A pot that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “C” might still receive a grade of “C” if its shape, design, use or age is particularly unusual.
I have not bought (and could not afford to buy) every Nampeyo pot on the market. I have tried to acquire pots that I thought were at least “good” (“B”) examples of her work, but my eye has also changed as the collection developed.
Pots formed by Nampeyo and painted by a daughter (unsigned or signed):
As Barbara Kramer (among others) notes, Hopi and Hopi/Tewa pottery making is often a family affair. The European notion that “it’s not a good Rembrandt because his son did some of the painting” is out of place at Hopi. Annie had her own style but (apparently) could also paint quite like her mother when called upon to do so. Some of Annie’s work is the equal of her mom’s and the two are difficult to distinguish. Fannie was also a good painter, though I think rarely as good as her mother. Nellie (I’m told) was a particularly kind person, but both technically and aesthetically not an outstanding potter.
This mother/daughter pot is aesthetically wonderful, incorporates many of the (six) iconic design strategies defined by Nampeyo and is among the best Hopi/Tewa pottery made. A pot that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “A” might still receive a grade of “A” if it represents an unusual or unique insight into the mother/daughter collaboration or its shape, design, use or age is particularly unusual.
A “good” example of Nampeyo’s pottery-forming skills with a design by a daughter that, while well formed and aesthetically pleasing, does not represent the highest achievement of Hopi/Tewa pottery would receive a grade of “B.” A pot that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “B” might still receive a grade of “B” if it represents an unusual or unique insight into the mother/daughter collaboration or its shape, design, use or age is particularly unusual.
A pot by Nampeyo and painted by a daughter would be graded “C” if the pot has an ordinary form (perhaps thick or uneven) and the design by a daughter seems distracted, rushed or applied without much care. A pot that did not reach this aesthetic standard of “C” might still receive a grade of “C” if it represents an unusual or unique insight into the mother/daughter collaboration or its shape, design, use or age is particularly unusual.
While formed by Nampeyo and painted by a daughter, this pot is not particularly attractive or well designed.
Nampeyo, Unsigned #1: Nampeyo, potter and painter
1988-01 B+ Redware bowl, two birds
A fine example of her work, but the design is too balanced and therefore not dynamic enough to get an “A.” The design is also a bit simple: You glance at it and “get” the impact; it does not draw your eye in and play tricks like a great Nampeyo pot. If viewed with the two birds rotated so that the design is off vertical, the design is more dynamic. The + is because it’s made of “sikyatska” yellow clay that fires red. These are uncommon for Nampeyo. For example, the State Museum of Arizona (Tucson) has a great Nampeyo collection, but only one red-clay pot.
1993-04 A+ Bowl with “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design
This is an extraordinary bowl because it is an early (ca 1900) white-slipped pot with a classic ancient Sikyatki design adopted by Nampeyo throughout her Sikyatki Revival painting life. It has all six iconic strategies that make a Nampeyo bowl great. Appendix B explains my feelings about this bowl –in 10 pages!
1996-05 B+/A- Bird wing bowl, painted by Nampeyo or Annie
This is a fully-realized design, carefully-done and shows extraordinary skill. The everted rim adds a special touch. The “A-/B+” is because the design is too busy and a bit too balanced to be a fully great Nampeyo pot. It is spectacular, but not very Zen. For most folks it is probably an “A,” but I am a hard grader.
1999-03 A- Small clown face canteen
This little canteen is a tour-de-force. It contains the iconic Nampeyo “clown face” and many elements of the “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design originally realized in 1993-04. The convex surface projects the image toward the viewer. It’s like a Hopi Faberge egg. The pot earns a “-” because the design lacks the negative space which highlights Nampeyo’s best work.
2002-03 A+ Shallow dish with feather design
This little dish and simple design are an everlasting joy to watch. The design swirls in space and draws and fascinates my eye. It’s got all 6 of the iconic Nampeyo design strategies and in spades.
2002-11 C Eroded bowl
The design is carefully done by a fine painter, but just sits there and repeats itself around the pot. The design lacks the energy that makes Nampeyo a great painter. The surface is a bit eroded, but there is nothing wrong with this pot. It just does not show off Nampeyo’s skills very well.
2005-16 A+ Seedpot with eagle-feather design
This is one of the great pots in the collection. The design is full of energy and tension and draws the eye in. The design fully realized all of Nampeyo’s design strategies and is both simple and complex at the same time. I could look at this pot for hours (and have). If you want the glorious details, read Appendix C, my 7-page paean to this pot.
2006-02 B Avian design, badly broken bowl
This is a fine demonstration of the great skill of Nampeyo. There is focus and motion in the design and it all works well. Somehow the bowl does not reach greatness, perhaps because it was so badly broken and the break lines distract the eye.
2006-11 A- “Pure abstraction” design bowl
This bowl is “out of the box” for a Nampeyo pot. It does not follow the usual rules of her design and is thus hard to compare. Until the recent sale on eBay of two similar pots, I had never seen anything like this design. (Photographs on file.) The unusual “pure abstract” design gives this pot extra value. The unevenly “cleaned” background on part of the pot is distracting and would normally lower its aesthetic value. However, given the importance of such “pure abstraction” design in Nampeyo’s oeuvre, I rate the bowl highly.
2007-16 A- Effigy pot
Another “out of the box” Nampeyo pot and one that was apparently done for only a short time. Thus it is rare and is in perfect condition. As with 2006-11, the usual Nampeyo aesthetic standards do not apply. The design is not as compelling as her best work, but is not trying to play that game. The form is very unusual. A smaller Nampeyo effigy pot is also part of this collection (2013-14). Marti S. has two like 2007-16 and I know of two others. It’s not designed to be a stunner but fully delivers what it is supposed to be. The face is full of character and presents itself well.
2008-06 B+ Four-moth pot
This is a good example of an unusual Nampeyo design. (Not as rare as 2007-16, but unusual.) This example is smaller than most and is not balanced on its bottom. There is slight damage to the design. It fits a “niche” in the Nampeyo design repertoire, and is “fine,” just not great. The design is pleasing but does not draw the eye and play design games like the great Nampeyo pots. (Larger examples of this pot have more visual impact, but for me are not as satisfying a the great Nampeyo designs.)
2009-08 A- Small bowl with footprint design, Transition Period, 1890s
This is a really small bowl and I loved it well before Ed Wade said it was Nampeyo. My first reaction (every time I look at it) is to smile. This is an engaging foot. J The bowl is unique in the Nampeyo oeuvre. With crackled slip on the inside and stone polished on the outside, the finish is a mongrel between Polacca ware and Sikyatki revival ware. (“Walpi Polychrome,” though this pot is monochromatic.) The design contains neither traditional Polacca elements nor Sikyatki Revival motifs. The bowl is a snapshot of Nampeyo in transition experimenting with new finishes and designs. It’s a sweet piece but not monumental, hence the “-” sign.
2009-10 A- Worn large sikyatki revival canteen with strap
This canteen is an “A” both because of the aesthetic qualities of the pot and its ethnographic story (including the strap). If the design was on a perfectly preserved (like-new condition) pot, I would appreciate it but give it a B+ as a Nampeyo pot. Those funny “radio dial” designs seem odd to me and don’t add much aesthetically, though I generally love the “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design. The addition of the old strap and the probable story of its ethnographic use by (maybe) a member of the Nampeyo family put it over the top (as an “A” pot). This is the only Sikyatki Revival pot by Nampeyo I know of that was actually used. It’s rare (perhaps unique), hence a top rating in spite of those radio knobs.
2009-17 A++ Walpi polychrome piki bowl, Transition Period, 1890s
As an example of a Polacca C style (actually Walpi Polychrome) bowl by Nampeyo, this bowl is very, very rare. That it was likely made by Nampeyo for her personal use and used for several decades in her home is a stunner. The fact that it was broken (and therefore traded by Fannie to Dick Howard) simply adds to its story and charm. The repairs bother me not at all. If the collection has a true museum piece, this is it. The interior design is intact under all that patina and is well executed, though a bit static, as all such Polacca C designs seem to be. This just serves as a design benchmark to demonstrate Nampeyo’s genius of design subsequently developed as Sikyatki Revival ware. I tiptoe around this bowl in wonder that it is in my home. (A bit romantic and dramatic.)
2010-11 A+ Small canteen with variation of “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design
Again this is a deceptively simple design beautifully executed and displaying all six of Nampeyo’s design tricks. Although small, the visual impact is big. It’s no better painted than canteen 1999-03, but the simpler design and negative space allow the design on 2010-11 to shout out more.
2011-16 C+ Bowl with avian design and Harvey label
While this bowl meets all six of the “classic” Nampeyo design techniques, this is not a visually compelling bowl. The “Made by Nampeyo – Hopi” indicates that it was sold by the Harvey Co, and was probably fairly quickly made to fill ad order. I would rate it “C” except that the Harvey label gives it a particular interest. After the opening of Hopi House in 1905 much of Nampeyo’s work became commodified as it was sold wholesale to Harvey and other traders. This bowl is testimony to that period so I added a “+” to the rating.
2012-02 A++ Black-on-cream bowl with flared rim and Kayenta design
This is one of the great pots in the collection. As detailed in the catalog entry, it meets 4 of the 6 “classic” criteria that typifies her best Sikyatki Revival style. The design on both the interior and earns an “A” rating from me. However this is not a Sikyatki Revival pot but a rare example of Nampeyo’s experimentation with other aesthetic traditions before she adopted mostly Sikyatki shapes and designs as her signature style. This Kayenta Black-On-White Revival, (to coin a phrase) style is too complex to allow for rapid production of pots for the market and there are few known examples in the Nampeyo oeuvre. In a collection that is trying to show the development of Nampeyo’s aesthetic over time, this is a critical pot.
2012-08 B+ Handled pitcher with foxes
This is an oddly shaped, awkward, unsymmetrical and thick-walled pitcher. As a form it is unimportant. Painted on the sides, however, are two wonderful, lively images of fox-like creatures. The checkered mid-bodies of these animals is classic Nampeyo and the detailed, energized painting is extraordinary. Nampeyo figurative quadruped painting is unusual and this is a particularly nice example. Averaging out the clunky form and fine painting yielded the ranking.
2012-13 B- Canteen with variation of the eagle tail design
This canteen is an interesting shape and the use of lugs harks back to a prehistoric tradition. The painting meets all the criteria that mark Nampeyo’s mature style, but the design is busy and lacks motion. The pot is interesting and instructive but not compelling.
2012-21 A+ Five hummingbird bowl
So, OK: I love this pot. The bowl is well made, although the rim is casually finished. Of the Nampeyo pots in this collection, the painting on the interior of the pot is the least formal. The scene portrayed is playful and the composition of the design and the quality of the painting is similarly informal, even humorous. It’s probably all my romantic fantasy, but this presentation feels like I gain some insight into Nampeyo’s reported quiet and pleasant nature. The external glyphs are surprisingly sophisticated and complex. In today’s art market pots with perfect form and painting are highly valued, but I am more attracted to folk art and so this pot receives a very high rating.
2012-25 B+ Conical bowl marked “Nampyuo”
This was an enigma, now perhaps solved . The odd conical shape of this bowl and the particular spelling of the signature indicate and early and unusual pedigree. The painting is well-done but not spectacular. It seems that that the pot was formed and painted by Nampeyo, but signed by a young Fannie (b. ca 1900) for sale at the 1910 Chicago or 1915 San Diego Expositions. As such, it would be the earliest Nampeyo bowl signed by a daughter and unlike the others was both formed and painted by Nampeyo. A unique item.
2013-03 B Vase with tapered body and flared neck, avian designs
This vase has an unusual non-Hopi shape and some of the process of construction can be seen on the inside, which gives it additional interest. The designs are a catalog of Nampeyo iconography collected together onto one vessel, which makes it particularly instructive. Moreover Nampeyo miscalculated the space needed to repeat her motifs and a careful examination of the layout allows the viewer to understand the sequence in which Nampeyo painted the pot. Such insights into Nampeyo’s process always fascinate me. The overall pattern of design on the upper shoulder of the pot is a bit of a jumble and does not reflect the elegant serenity of Nampeyo’s best work. Vertical motifs emerge from this top section and run towards the bottom of the vase, thus emphasizing the pots shape and providing contrast with the upper pattern, a classic Nampeyo device.
2013-14 B+ Small effigy pot
The pot was not intended to be a masterpiece and is not. It does not attempt to demonstrate a classic Nampeyo design and so cannot be judged by those standards. As a modest, expressive effigy bowl, it fills its role admirably. The unusual form adds to its interest.
2013-17 C+ Small kaolin bowl with eroded man eagle design
The design on this bowl seems to have been quickly drawn, perhaps because the label indicates it was ordered by the Harvey Co. Because it is drawn on a slick polished kaolin surface, much of the design has rubbed off, though all elements are discernable. A large oil (?) spot clouds the center of the design. With some uncertainty I attribute this bowl to Nampeyo, but I would probably grade it C-. However, as an example of an early Nampeyo experiment with polished white slip that was abandoned by her and not resurrected by Hopi potters for another 40 years, the bowl has considerable interest in a collection that is trying to document the full range of Nampeyo’s oeuvre. Thus the higher ranking.
2014-01 B+ Early Sikyatki Revival bowl with incurved rim
The sharply incurved rim makes the interior of this small bowl difficult to paint. The exterior of this bowl is also finely decorated. When seen from above, the combined view of external design framing the dramatic interior design is like looking into a jeweled Easter egg. Based on the visuals, I would grade this bowl “B.” I t is an experimental shape that shows Nampeyo playing with the relationship between form and design. That earns extra credit.
2014-07 A++ Simplified “bird hanging from skyband” bowl
I know of no better example of the visual power of Sikyatki Revival design than this bowl. Its simple, sophisticated design captures the essence of Nampeyo’s genius. The bowl is a touchstone of this collection. I am stunned every morning when I wake up and see its beauty.
2014-10 A Rectangular tile with polychromatic Polik’Mana
Constrained within a rectangular frame, the design on this tile does not demonstrate the dynamic energy of Nampeyo’s best bowls. As a framed portrait of the Polik’Mana dancer, however, the tile shows this personage with dignity and in detail. The quality of the painting is the best I have ever seen on a tile.
2014-17 B- Effigy pot with mountain sheep heads and handle
This is an eccentric pot: interesting but not particularly beautiful. It shows Nampeyo playing with forms, either for the fun of it or to test what appealed to a tourist market. On purely aesthetic grounds I would grade it a “C+.” Because its it demonstrates a form that is unique, I add extra points.
2014-20 B- Bowl with crossed feather design
The design on this bowl is interesting, but not visually dramatic. It does teach us that triangular elements are used by Nampeyo to create visual tension with linear elements, a role I had previously thought played only by curvilinear designs.
2015-03 A++ Polacca wide shouldered jar with Acoma-style birds
This is a particularly early jar by Nampeyo and does not fit the design standards of her later Sikyatki Revival work. Seen without knowledge of its maker, it is a compelling piece of folk art. As the oldest Nampeyo pot in this collection, it allows us to understand genius finding her ability. That’s a rare attribute and earns this jar the highest rating.
2015-04 A- Flat-topped seedjar with abstract, angular designs
This seedpot is spectacular in form with an unusual decoration. To form such flat upper surfaces iis extraordinarily difficult since wet coils of clay tend to collapse without support. The decoration, however, is the most striking aspect of this pot. Its abstract design is carefull interconnected, yet seems spontaneous and delights the eye. This is a rare example of Nampeyo’s “curvalinera abstraction” design. a decade before Europeans “discovered” abstract expressionism. A visual delight that illustrates Nampeyo’s inventive genius and an important historical marker – all in one pot.
2015-11 A++ Bowl with exterior “Numpayo” signature, bird/sky-band design
This bowl is of ordinary form and carries a well-done but typical Nampeyo design. What makes it historically significant is the signature “Nu m pa yo” written on the exterior of the bowl. Nampeyo was illiterate and could not write, yet this is one of only two examples known of her signature written by her own hand. The two bowls are the earliest examples of signed Nampeyo pots. Moreover, these six letters are also a natural experiment measuring Nampeyo’s visual acuity. The bowl is “documented as made by Nampeyo,” Marti Struever’s highest category of attribution.
2015-12 A- Lobed white-slipped jar with feather motif
The lobed shape of this small jar is almost unique among historic Hopi pottery. The painting is tiny, delicate and beautiful and it masterfully fits the form. Given that it was originally purchased in 1917, I had thought that Annie must have painted this pot, but for reasons explained in the catalog entry, I now think that this is all Momma’s work.
2017-03 A++ Two-tradition tray with Polacca-style Polik’Mana interior, Sikyatki Revival exterior
This is a masterwork of the collection. The shape is rare, maybe unique. The Polik’Mana image is delicate, animated and beautifully rendered. Importantly, in this one vessel we have Nampeyo using Polacca techniques and design on the interior, but Sikyatki Revival techniques and designs on the exterior. Thus tray 2017-03 is not only a boundary marker between two traditions of Hopi pottery, but also marks a transition point in Nampeyo’s development as an artist. For a collection trying to document the range of Nampeyo’s production, it doesn’t get any better than this.
2017-05 B+ Three-lug redware canteen
This is a rare shape and the red slip is an unusual choice for Nampeyo. Moreover, the design —particularly the birds with curlicue heads— is intriguing and attractive. The design meets all of the relevant design strategies we anticipate Nampeyo using, but there is less negative space than is present in her best pots. As a result, the design seems crowded. I would rate this a “B” pot except for the unusual 3-lug shape and that earns it some extra points.
Nampeyo, Unsigned #2: Nampeyo, potter; painted by a daughter
1997-04 B Redware bowl formed by Nampeyo, painted by Annie
The pot is unusual in that it is made with yellow clay that fires red and not just slipped with the (fires) red clay. The design is by Annie painting her own style with disjointed elements and has no sense of overall motion.
2000-07 B+ Detailed canteen, painted by Nampeyo or Annie (?)
Nampeyo canteens are always special and this form gains some points. Again the painting (likely by Annie) uses the classic Nampeyo four mountain (swastika-like) image as a central focus and builds only a loosely organized image around it. As with 1997-04, the fragmented design elements are typical of Annie painting in her own style.
2002-09 B+/A- Large imperfect bat-wing pot, painted by Annie (?)
Several years ago Ed Wade showed me an almost identical pot (several times larger but same design) on his dining room table. He identified it as “by Nampeyo.” The form on the Wade jar was perfect and the design (unlike jar 2002-09) was also perfect. Nampeyo very likely formed jar 2002-09. It is unclear who painted it. (See Wade’s evaluation). If I had to guess I would think that Annie painted the pot using her mother’s (not her own) style and classic Sikyatki design elements. The size of the pot adds to its value. The fact that the pot is asymmetric and the painter had to try to adjust the design to the awkward shape either detracts for the value (resulting in a B+ grade) or adds to the human appeal of the pot (giving it an A- grade).
2006-01 B+ Kwatoko bowl, painted by Annie
The bowl was formed by Nampeyo; the design very likely was painted by Annie. The painting is well-done using a classic Sikyatki motif adapted and developed by Annie. 2006-01 is a fine example of the best of Annie painting in the style of her mother (Sikyatki Revival). If it were not for the pot having been broken and simply glued, I’d give the bowl an A-. With the breakage into two pieces, I evaluate it as a B+. If the breakage bothers you a lot, then I’d say B.
2006-15 B Small eagle-tail seedpot, painted by a young Fannie?
If the pot was simply a Hop/Tewa pot, I’d grade it B- since it has a very powerful but crudely painted design. If you buy Ed Wade’s idea that this is an early Fannie-learning pot, then it is special and unique and I’d grade it “B+.” (Steve Elmore had a larger but identically designed pot painted by the same hand as 2006-15.. He believes his pot was both formed and painted by Nampeyo, but I do not think she would have done anything so crude in the 20th century.) These mixed signals average out to a “B.”
2012-14 B Jar with corrugated neck, painted by Fannie ?
This jar is thick walled but of good form. The painting is well done with typical Hopi/Tewa motifs. It’s the corrugated neck that is unusual and –if my attribution to Nampeyo/Fannie is accepted– gives the vessel special importance. My best estimation is that embodies a point in Nampeyo’s life (the 1920’s) when she was continuing to make pottery but because of failing eyesight was unable to paint it. Thus while form and painting are “pleasing,” the vessel has more historical than aesthetic importance in this collection.
2014-13 B- Dish with insect variation of “bird hanging from skyband”
A product of Nampeyo and Annie, this bowl is a wonderful example of a talented daughter painting in the style of her mother. The design is pleasing, but lacks the internal logic of a Nampeyo- designed pot. It is important in this collection because it allows us to detail the partnership between mother and daughter.
2017-01 C+ Vase with two Koyemsi effigy faces, probably painted by Nellie.
Except for those effigy faces, this is not a very attractive pot. It is asymmetric from the waist up and the two large painted designs are poorly done, probably by Nellie. It’s those faces that make the pot. Both of the Koyemsi faces are well-molded, though different. They are also well-painted. Without the effigy faces, this would be an unattractive pot, maybe a “C-” on a good day. As an example of Nampeyo’s ability to create images that could then be applied to a vessel, the pot has considerable interest. Hence the final, higher, grade.
Nampeyo, Signed #3: Nampeyo, potter; painted by a daughter
1985-01 B Seedpot signed “Nampeyo”
This is one of three signed Nampeyo pots in the collection that are carefully painted, presumably by Fannie. There are a limited number of signed (by a daughter) Nampeyo pots, and this increases it value.
1997-01 C+ Simple bowl
The bowl is casually formed and painted without much attention. If it were unsigned I’d rate it C-. Since it is a 1930s signed Nampeyo pot, I’d rate it C+.
2002-12 D Tiny seedpot
An unimpressive small pinch pot, though a good example of a Nampeyo and family producing for the tourist market. Because it is signed and small, it is an “authentic” Nampeyo pot that can easily be wrapped in a sock and tucked in a suitcase. This specimen made it all the way to England in the 1930s.
2003-07 C+ Formed by Nampeyo, painted by Nellie
This is a poorly made and casually-painted pot. Unsigned I’d give it a “D.” Since it is signed “Nampeyo” and painted by Nellie, it is especially unusual, raising the grade to C+.
2007-12 B Nampeyo/Fannie signed pot
This is a classic Nampeyo design, but is not carefully painted. If just signed “Nampeyo” I’d have graded it B. Since it is signed Nampeyo/Fannie in that order, it was made shortly before the “Old Lady” died. Such dual-name signatures are particularly rare, so I give the pot a B.
2010-05 B+ Small vase with avian design, painted by Fannie
I love this little pot. It is very well painted using classic Nampeyo motifs. Without knowledge of its actual size, it looks monumental. That you can feel the ridges of Nampeyo’s fingers on the inside adds value in my estimation. The “Nampeyo” signature also adds value.
2011-32 C+ Cowboy hat ashtray, painted by Fannie?
This item does not attempt much and succeeds in filling its goal. It was intended as kitsch and is a good example of the genre. It is well-made and simply painted. It is a delight to have in the collection because it demonstrates that even master potter Nampeyo searched out opportunities to earn a living by catering to the tourist trinket trade, here with the help of a daughter. As such, it is an important item documenting the range of Nampeyo’s work.
2013-12 B Seedpot with geometric design, painted by Nellie
The pot is well and gracefully formed. The painting is competent but not particularly inspired. Unsigned I would have graded it C. Since it is signed “Nampeyo” I would rase my evaluation to a C+. Pottery unambiguiously signed Nampeyo/Nellie are quite unusual, so I raise my final evaluation. Much of my appreciation of this vessel is historical and not aesthetic.
2015-14 C+ Polychrome jar with “NeMPayo” signature
The form of this jar delights and impresses the eye. The painting varies from uninspired to well-done. What makes this pot interesting is the signature “NeMPayo” on the bottom. The letters are carefully formed, but the reversal of the“e” and “a” from the usual spelling and the capitalization of “MP” in the middle of the name are particular. The small “e” suggests that Fannie did not paint or sign the pot. It’s thus more of a curiosity than a great piece of art. I’d grade the jar “C-“ except for the intrigue of the signature.
Labeled “Nampeyo,” but neither formed nor painted by her
2010-20 Unranked Red clay bowl with mouse-like creatures and Harvey Co.”Nampeyo” label
This is an odd one. The Harvey label (“Made by Nampeyo—Hopi”) is contemporaneous evidence that it is by the “Old Lady.” Nampeyo used this mouse-like design on other bowls, but the form of pot 2010-20 and the painting are far below the standard of anything I have ever seen by Nampeyo. I speculate that the pot was formed and painted by a young Nellie. That would exclude it from a discussion of “Old Lady” Nampeyo pots. As simply a clunky pot by an unknown artist, I would grade it C- at best. However, the paper Harvey label is in-and-of-itself a significant and rare addition to a Nampeyo collection. It also evidence that a century ago a Harvey employee had reason to believe bowl 2010-20 was by Nampeyo. Or was confused. If this bowl really was made by Nampeyo, it is an interesting example of her ability to do poor work, what Rachel Sahmie called “Nampeyo’s PMS pot.” (See catalog entry for pot 2002-09.) The label makes the pot extraordinary, though still clunky. Averaging all this out, I am leaving it “unranked” since I am not sure how it relates to Nampeyo’s ouvere.
Of the 53 “Nampeyo” pots in the collection, my evaluation is:
“A” range = 36%
A-/B+ = 4%
“B” = 42%
“C” = 15%
“D” = 2%
Unranked = 2%
2009-17 Walpi polychrome piki bowl, Transition Period, 1890s
2012-02 Black-on-cream bowl with flared rim and Kayenta design
2014-07 Simplified “bird hanging from skyband” bowl
2015-03 Polacca wide shouldered jar with Acoma-style birds
2015-11 Bowl with exterior “Numpayo” signature, bird/sky band design
2017-03 Two-Tradition tray with Polacca-style Polik’Mana interior, Sikyatki Revival exterior
1993-04 Bowl with “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design
2002-03 Shallow dish with feather design
2005-16 Seedpot with eagle-feather design
2010-11 Small canteen with variation of “Bird Hanging from Sky Band” design
2012-21 Five hummingbird bowl
2014-10 Rectangular tile with polychromatic Polik’Mana
1999-03 Small clown face canteen
2006-11 “Pure Abstraction” design bowl
2007-16 Effigy pot
2009-08 Small bowl with footprint design, Transition Period, 1890s
2009-10 Worn large Sikyatki revival canteen with strap
2015-04 Flat-topped seedpot with abstract, angular designs
2017-12 Lobed white-slipped jar with feather motif
1996-05 Bird wing bowl, painted by Nampeyo or Annie
2002-09 Large imperfect bat-wing pot, painted by Annie (?)
1988-01 Redware bowl, two birds
2000-07 Detailed canteen, painted by Nampeyo or Annie (?)
2006-01 Kwatoko bowl, painted by Anni
2008-06 Four-moth pot
2010-05 Small vase with avian design signed “Nampeyo ”
2012-08 Handled pitcher with foxes
2012-25 Conical bowl signed “Nampyuo”
2013-14 Small effigy pot
2014-01 Early Sikyatki Revival bowl with incurved rim
2017-05 Three-lug redware canteen
1985-01 Seedpot signed “Nampeyo”
1997-04 Redware bowl formed by Nampeyo, painted by Annie
2006-02 Avian design, badly broken bowl
2006-15 Small eagle-tail seedpot, painted by a young Fannie (?)
2007-12 Nampeyo/Fannie signed pot
2012-14 Jar with corrugated neck, painted by Fannie?
2013-03 Vase with tapered body and flared neck, avian designs
2013-12 Seedpot with geometric design painted by Nellie
2014-17 Effigy pot with mountain sheep heads and handle
2013-13 Canteen with variation of eagle tail design
2014-13 Dish with insect variation of “bird hanging from skyband”
2014-20 Bowl with crossed feather design
2003-07 Formed by Nampeyo, painted by Nellie
2011-16 Bowl with avian design and Harvey label
2011-32 Cowboy hat ashtray, painted by Fannie?
2013-17 Small kaolin bowl with eroded man eagle design
2015-14 Polychrome jar with “NeMPayo” signature
2017-01 Vase with two Koyemsi effigy faces, probably painted by Nellie
1997-01 Simple bowl signed “Nampeyo”
2002-11 Eroded bowl
2002-12 Tiny seedpot signed “Nampeyo”
Unranked (because I am unsure how it relates to Nampeyo’s work).
2010-20 Red clay bowl with mouse-like creatures and Harvey Co. “Nampeyo” Label
Part of the fun of connoisseurship is training one’s eye to see details of quality. It is the nature of such activity that different eyes, of course, will see different values. Others will see the pots in this collection differently than I do. Perhaps some of what was discussed here will allow others to evaluate and rank the many Nampeyo pots not in this collection. That should provide many hours of argument and discussion. I can hardly wait….