This is the classic “fine-line migration” design of the Nampeyo family. It is said that a Nampeyo family potter “graduates” from being a student to being recognized by the family as an independent potter when she can competently do this ubiquitous (but difficult) design. (See the Index of Categories for other Nampeyo family pots in this collection with this design.) Here, Shirley (b, 1936) acknowledges this tradition by signing her name, followed by “IV Nampeyo.” She is the fourth generation of recognized Nampeyo family potters.

The form of the pot is even and incredibly symmetrical; it is exactly twice as wide as it is tall. The painting is exceptionally detailed and delicate. The thin lines are very close but rarely touch. The wing ends are similarly delicate and finished with the dots favored by her grandmother Annie. The design is perfectly placed so that the residual empty space (painted red) forms exact eight-pointed stars on the top and bottom of the bowl. Thick-over-thin framing lines encircle the rim and bottom of the jar. There is just enough variation in the thin lines to keep the design from looking like a decal, thus giving the bowl good visual energy.

In his Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery book, Rick Dillingham quotes Shirley extensively:

“I do three things.  I make jewelry, I am a seamstress, and I’m a potter.  I like doing pottery sometimes to get away from the jewelry, and I can shape something while watching TV just to relax.  It is something I fall back on when I can’t do jewelry.  There are times when I get tired of doing jewelry and then I go to pottery…

I learned pottery from my mom (Daisy) and my grandmother Annie.  I lived with her [Annie] during the summers when school was out, and I used to play with her clay…

I learned most of my pottery friom my grandmother (Annie), and when I got to doing more my mother (Daisy) helped with shaping.  She taught me the ways to make them… I learned to mix paint from my mom and learned about designs, where they came from…(1994:42).”

Purchase History:
Purchased on 10/14/11 online from the Charles King Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. The pot was originally collected in the late 1980s (when Shirley was about 50) by a family of collectors in Scottsdale. (Name on file.) According to Charles, “Shirley is known for her jewelry, which she makes with her husband Virgil Benn. She is also renown for the few pots she makes, which are thin walled with tightly painted designs. This beautiful bowl is one of her larger pieces, as she often makes miniatures…. It is amazing how perfectly she paints her lines and the beauty of the fire clouds from the traditional firing.” Shirley is better known for her jewelry, but she is obviously a fine potter.