Hopi low-shouldered pot, fine line design, by Rachel Namingha Nampeyo, (born 1903; died 1985) daughter of Annie Nampeyo and mother of Priscilla. (For pots in the collection by Annie Healing and Priscilla Namingha, see the Artist List.) Similarly designed pots a) on the cover of Allen (1984) was made in 1951 and b) in Barsook (1974:35) created in 1973. Like pot 1994-12, these two pots seem rather finely drawn. On the other hand, the Rachel pot in Rick Dillingham’s collection (1994:44) is dated 1972 and is substantially more crude than 1994-12. Similarly, a 1978 pot formed by Rachel but painted by her sister Daisy Hooee (1989-06) is very thick and crude in shape. From this limited survey it is difficult to know when Rachel reached an age when her painting became shakier. Overall, given the fine drawing on 1994-12, its thin, controlled shape and apparent patina, I’d guess it was made in the 1950s or 1960s. All of which, of course, is only a guess.
Almost all pottery made at Hopi has similar design elements appearing in pairs. Such a format creates visual balance and focus, but there is also a practical reason: the paired format allows an artist to more accurately gage the space need for her design. With an odd number of elements no space is reserved for the last element to be painted, thus potentially squeezing this last element or leaving it too much room, thus throwing the entire design off-balance. The “migration design” on jar 1994-12 is thus unusual in that it repeats the S-frets only 7 times. A master potter, Rachael was able to space her design perfectly, creating balance out of an odd number of elements. To get a sense of the challenge, try cutting a pie into 7 slices, all exactly the same size.
Rachael used a version of this same design on a huge pot she created in the 1950’s (2012-20), but here she reverted to the more usual paired form, using 10 renditions of the S-frets. Rachael’s granddaughter was named after her and, ironically, it was this descendent (Rachael Sahmie Nampeyo) who created only the second example of an odd-numbered migration design in this collection (2023-01).