Archeologists and art historians are in the business of organizing and cataloging artifacts and art. When pottery is the focus, the result are typologies of “types,” often organized in sequence (cf : Colton, 4/16/1956; Dittert and Plog, 1980; Wade, 1980a; Adams, 1983; Wyckoff, 1983 and Kramer, 1996:179-188). Such typologies are useful because they help us focus on systematic differences between pots. Tightly defined categories highlight these differences. More broadly-defined categories help us see patterns and trends of production. The pottery of the southwest United States seems particularly adept at quickly reflecting changes in social conditions. Hence archeologists are able to use changes in pottery style to sequence and date small changes in patterns of human habitation. Pottery typologies can also be misleading, however.
These typologies are abstract ideal types and may not describe a particular pot. Pots might exhibit all of the “classic” traits associated with a defined type or they may have characteristics of form, finish or design that draw from more than one categorized type. Guided by their own aesthetic sensibility, individual potters may make a variety of pottery types at a particular time and over time. They are likely unaware or indifferent to ethnographic typologies of “type.” Thus, there is often difference between the clear boundaries of academic pottery typologies and design and the style of a particular pot. Potters experiment with different forms and techniques; pottery typologies try to organize this creativity into structures of systematic change. Often these two activities are not well-fitted to each other.
Moreover, the custom of naming pottery types after the locations where the type was first discovered often leads to confusion. Type names should be used with some caution: they are helpful handles, but understood literally they are misleading. Thus, “Polacca” ware was probably made in all three villages on top of First Mesa but not made in the village of Polacca at the mesa base. “Walpi Polychrome” was almost certainly made in the village of Hano a few hundred yards from Walpi and may not have been made in Walpi village at all. “Sikyatki Revival” pottery drew its inspiration for pottery shards found at the ancestral village of Sikyatki but was not made there and had several other sources of inspiration. Thus, although Polacca, Walpi and Sikyatki are village names, the use of these names in pottery typologies refers to characteristics of clay, form, finish and design and not necessarily place.
Between 1875 and the first few years of the 20th century, Hopi social organization was strongly impacted by outside forces. The result was a fundamental change in the role of pottery in the economy of First Mesa and a major shift in pottery form and decoration. These changes are well represented in this collection and are the focus of this essay.
The next section discusses some Hopi social history, followed by a discussion of the impact of this history on Hopi and Hopi-Tewa pottery. The rest of this essay will discuss specific pots in this collection that illustrate the changing function of pottery at Hopi ca 1870 to 1905 CE.
Hopi Social History
The first European contacts with the indigenous peoples of (what is now) the American southwest occurred in 1539. Spain enslaved the local populations and attempted to force conversion to Catholicism until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After a failed attempt to reestablish a Spanish Catholic church at Awatovi, the Hopi had only sporadic contact with people of European descent from 1700 until the establishment of the trading post at Keam’s canyon in 1875. However, contact with Europeans had a devastating impact on the Hopi people, primarily due to a series of smallpox epidemics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There were probably about 29,000 Hopi living at Black Mesa in 1520 CE. By the time of Nampeyo’s birth in about 1860 CE (during a major smallpox outbreak) this number had dropped by more than 90% to around 2,500 people. Moreover, when Nampeyo was an infant, the katchinas stopped bringing moisture to Hopi. Fred Kabote speaks of “the terrible drought and famine of the early 1860’s, when so many people died that it took years to re-establish some of the ceremonies (1977:66).” The population of Hopi hovered around 2,500 until the 1930’s and the advent of modern medical care on the reservation. (Rushforth and Upham, 1992: 68-112).
During the periodic smallpox epidemics and droughts, the Hopi fled the mesas, many taking refuge at Zuni Pueblo to the southeast. When these refugees returned to Hopi in the 1700’s they had adopted Zuni Polychrome pottery techniques. This Hopi pottery, typed “Polacca Ware,” was produced from about 1780 to about 1900 and (except for temper and clay) is almost indistinguishable from Zuni pottery of the time.
In 1875 Thomas Keam established his trading post 13 miles east of First Mesa. Over the next 30 years First Mesa potters adjusted their ceramic output to reflect this new reality (Graves, 1998:161-165). While some pottery continued to be made for domestic use, increasingly Hopi and Hopi-Tewa pottery became a commercial item intended for barter at the trading post (Wade and McChesky, 1981: 143-144 and 455). These three decades saw a dramatic change in pottery form, finish and design from “Polacca” to “Sikyatki Revival” types:
“The late 1880’s and early 1890’s was a period of pre-commercial modification of Hopi ceramics by Euro-Americans. Thomas Keam was the primary force directing pottery toward commercial styles. Keam’s initial commercial outlet was the supplying of museums with representative study collections of Hopi ceramics…This period was marked by increased standardization of designs and mass production of new forms. Its major expressions were the incorporation of kachina motifs into the new shallow plates, deep vases and tiles…Within the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Hopi ceramics once again began to change. This was the period of initial experimentation in reintroducing prehistoric motifs and shapes (black-on-white, as well as Jeddito, Payupki, Sikyatki and other yellow ware motifs) into Polacca Polychrome…(The) appearance of Sikyatki traits in some late Polacca Polychrome vessels draws into serious question the much beloved fable of the Hopi potter, Nampeyo, creating this revival single-handedly during the mid 1890’s (Wade, 1980:56, 59-60).”
Sequencing Changes in Hopi Pottery Types
A subset of pots in this collection well illustrates the transition in Hopi and Hopi-Tewa pottery between Thomas Keam’s arrival at Hopi in 1875 and pottery production thirty years later. I have arranged these pots in a sequence that makes sense to me, but many do not exactly fit proscribed typologies of pottery. Different scholars might focus on different characteristics to organize this discussion. The sequence I present may also be out of temporal order, in part because I do not expect aesthetic change to be linear and also because the production dates of the pots discussed are merely informed guesses with much room for error. My error margin might be especially wide since my knowledge of Polacca ware sequencing is uncertain. Tap on the highlighted hyperlinks to go to that pot’s catalog entry.
About two dozen pots in this collection illustrate the transition from traditional Polacca “C” pottery to the “Sikyatki Revival” pottery, the type that made Nampeyo famous and become almost synonymous with modern Hopi pottery. All of these pots were made for sale to Keam’s trading post, archeologists or tourists, except for three apparently intended for home use (2014-06, 2010-17 and 2009-17).
Classic Polacca “C” Pots (1860-1890):
The Polacca tradition began about 1780 with Polacca “A” style pots that later gave way to Polacca “B” style. This collection does not have pottery from these traditions. Polacca “C” pottery began to be made in the 1860’s and has a heavy granular kaolin white slip that crazes:
“Zuni forms and designs dominate. Decorations include rainbow volutes, birds, flowers and katsinas. …the white slip is more granular than found on Styles A and B…..(Non-Native) shapes such as shallow saucers painted with Katsinas, vases, candlesticks, ashtrays and lamps were made mainly for commercial use (trade to Anglos) (Wade and Cooke, 2012:34).”
“Slip appears to have been carelessly rag-wiped and polished. The red underbody slip varies in thickness and it texturally coarse…On bowls the red is often confined to the bottom of the pot and is occasionally absent. Pigments adhere poorly to the surface….(In contrast to earlier prehistoric traditions)(d)uring the Polacca tradition negative space came to be thought of as a background to be painted…With Style C ceramics…(d)esigns were placed on a flat white canvass with minimal concern for…neagtive forms…This contributes to the feeling of slopiness in Style C compositions, even when the painting is well executed. The ignored background shapes intrude into the design and destort its symmetry (Wade and McChesney, 1981:143).”
“Designs reproduce Zuni motifs and are arabesque. The commercialization of Hopi pottery began during this period and pots show signs of mass production, designs became limited and many Polacca “C” pots do not show any wear due to ethnographic use, since they were made to be sold (Wade, 1980, 60).”
Polacca C pots in this collection:
2014-06: Food bowl (ca 1860 to 1890) is so large that it was very probably made for home use. Rag-wiped, non-crackled slip. Classic Zuni “rain-bird” motifs dominate the design. Of the transitional pots in this collection, it is one of three that was likely not made for sale or trade. This pot anchors this end of the range of pots describe in this essay, just as a Sikyatki Revival eagle-tail pot (2005-16) anchors the other end.
1990-03: Mutton stew bowl (ca 1870-1880’s) is a classic Polacca “C” bowl . Crackled kaolin slip. Diagonal stepped frets, scallops, Arabesque motifs predominate. The red rims and white-slip with a crackled finish are characteristic of Polacca C pottery (Wade and McChesney, 1981: 143-144 and 564-565). Although this bowl has the form and design of the standard household pottery of its day, it does not show ethnographic use. This suggests that –like the Polacca pottery in the Keam collection at Harvard– it were made and quickly sold to Thomas Keam in exchange for goods imported to the reservation.
1994-14: This jar (ca 1870-1880’s) displays the heavy kaolin crazed slip and classic and Zuni rain-bird design that marks it as Polacca C ware. Like stew bowl 1990-03 discussed above, this pot is of a form and size used for for domestic purposes, but the lack of ethnographic wear indicates it was also traded to Keam shortly after manufacture.
2010-03: This vertical canteen dates from the 1880’s and has an ancestoral Hopi canteen shape. Crackled kaolin slip. The impractical small size indicates it was not intended for Native use but was produced as an item of commerce. The bird and flower designs are cute folk art, the sort of decoration encouraged by Thomas Keam because they were attractive to Anglo buyers. This vertical form, however, was not popular with tourists and soon gave way to canteens with flat backs and domed, painted fronts. (See “Canteens” in the category list.)
2019-05: Eagle-tail jar (ca 1890) is a crude revival of an ancient Hopi design. Crackled white kaolin slip. Though clunky, its design was the inspiration for Nampeyo who, 15 years later, would develop the eagle-tail design into her signature Sikyatki Revival motif. (See 2005-16, below.)
2009-17: Walpi polychrome piki bowl made by Nampeyo about 1890-1895 and used in her home for several decades afterward.Because of the corn meal encrustration on the interior, I cannot tell if it is slipped. The exterior is smooth and uncrackled and may have been slipped using the same clay used for the body of the bowl. In shape and design it is a traditional Polacca “C” pot.
2010-17: Basket-formed undecorated piki bowl probably made in the late 19th or early 20th centuries (1880–1920), but this is just a guess. Its uneven rim, rough finish and basket-impressed bottom and corn-meal residue insure that this bowl was not made for sale but was made (probably on Third Mesa) for home use. Later in the 20th century such bowls were often made by potters from First Mesa and sometimes sold for home use through the trading post at Keam’s Canyon. Since these mid-century bowls are well-formed (cf 1993-05), I am assuming that bowl 2010-17 is from a much earlier era. In any case, it represents generations of piki bowls made for home use.
Polacca “D” pottery (1890-1900):
This is a commercial ceramic tradition, although pots incorporate Polacca Polychrome “B” traits like white crackled slip and, sometimes, red slipped base.
“The pottery of Polacca Polychrome Style D is transitional between Style C and the twentieth century Sikyatki Revival Polychrome. These ceramics are distinguished from earlier Polacca style by the incorporation of prehistoric designs and vessel shapes and their production solely for sale (Wade, 1980:60).” “Style D Polacca Polychrome has the same paste, pigment, and characteristic crazed slip of Style C vessels (Wade and McChesney, 1981:455).”
“One result of the vigor of this experimental decade in Hopi pottery is that firm and specific years of production are uncertain when addressing Hopi vessels from between 1890 and 1900 (Wade and Cooke, 2012:152).”
An experimentation with unslipped surfaces during the decade of the 1890’s indicates that ancient pottery traditions were beginning to influence pottery production. Pots with Polacca ware form and slip may carry Sikyatki-derived designs, the first indications of the Sikyatki Revival to come.
Polacca D pots in this collection:
1994-16: Low-shouldered jar with goofy design, ca 1890. Crackled white slip. This jar clearly shows the impact of the commercialization of Hopi/Tewa pottery into a commodity for exchange. Like traditional Polacca “D” pottery of its day, the rim of this circa 1890 pot is painted red and the pot is wiped with a white slip, though this slip is not as crackled as the typical slip on Polacca “C” ware. A traditional Polacca “C” jar would likely have a red bottom; this jar’s bottom is white-slipped. The wide-shoulder shape of this jar does not reflect the Polacca ware tradition but harkens back to earlier Sikyatki forms. The decoration is carefully painted but idiosyncratic and simply goofy with no relation to the Arabesque or rain bird designs on the earlier Polacca C pots discussed above. It seems to me that jar 1994-16 is an attempt by a woman to make a pot that would sell to Keam. She uses an ancient shape that she thinks will be attractive to an Anglo buyer and understands that the old Polacca designs are not desirable. Without a clear sense of what design tradition might sell, she simply carefully doodled on the pot surface. One doodle looks a lot like a cell phone tower.
1992-05: This pot has a Sikyatki shape that is similar to jar 1994-16, but the Polacca tradition of a red lip has been eliminated and the slip is less-crackled than the earlier tradition. The design clearly reflects a return to a Sikyatki sensibility of angular pattern and is not at all Arabesque.
2011-07: Crackled white-slipped pot with three quadrupeds. This is a commercial pot with a “cute” design made for sale or trade, probably through Keam’s trading post. The Arizona State Museum, Tucson has two similar pots and they are decorated with the same folk creatures seen on bowl 2011-07 (Catalog # 8338 and 8339). Thy are dated as ca. 1880. Ed Wade suggests the same date for my pot. An identical quadruped bowl is in the collection of the Museum of Northern Arizona (catalog #E853; Allen, 1984:42, 109). However, MNA records say the “date of manufacture” of their jar is 1918. Presumably all four pots were painted by the same unknown person at roughly the same time during this 38 year span of estimates.
2015-03: The earliest Nampeyo jar in this collection (ca 1885-1890), this is an insightful look at the developing genius of Nampeyo. The saucer shape is modeled on ancient Sikyatki ware; the birds in the design were born at Acoma Pueblo. The crackled white slip indicates a Polacca ware origin. Nampeyo is experimenting here and this pot gives us some perspective on the artistic explorations that preceded her later commitment to Sikyatki Revival style.
2012-03: Jar with raised face. The red rim and crackled white slip define this as Polacca ware. The framing lines and triangular motifs are not a Polacca tradition but are seen on ancient Sikyatki pots. Marti Streuver, having seen similar Hopi jars in the Pitt River Museum in England, dated this jar as “late 1880’s to early 1890’s,” though one Pitt River example seems to have been collected in 1903. No similar jars were included in the Heningway Collection sold by Keam in 1893, suggesting a later date for this jar. In short, the bowl is a hybrid: its slip and rim color are of the Polacca tradition but its painted designs are Sikyatki-derived and it was made for sale.
1999-09a: Bowl with “bird hanging from skyband” design This bowl dates from the 1890’s and retains the red rim and crackled slip of the Polacca ware tradition. However the “hanging sky bird” design is a direct rendition of a specific Sikyatki image. In a discussion of a very similar bowl by Nampeyo (1993-04 and see below), it is hypothesized that Nampeyo learned this design from a specific ancient Sikyatki bowl that she saw before it left the reservation in 1893. If bowl 1999-09a precedes this date, it suggests that this design was widely known before 1893. In any case, this is a purely Polacca bowl with a Sikyatki design, the very definition of Polacca “D” ware.
2004-03: Corn meal bowl with kachina design ca 1890. This pot is in many ways a traditional Polacca jar. Though it lacks the red underbody typical of Polacca ware, it displays a traditional red rim (and red handle). The body is white-slipped, though not crackled. The katchina image is an old design, but its use on pottery was discouraged by a Hopi theocracy that thought the use of sacred images on commercial pottery was sacrilegious. This pot was almost certainly made by the more liberal Tewa at Hano rather than the more theocratic Hopi of other First Mesa villages. The shape is traditional. Corn meal bowls of this shape are still used today in the plaza dances. (See 1998-14.) Again there is no evidence of ethnographic ware. It was likely made for sale to Keam using the katchina images that he favored.
1997-09: Milk pitcher with katchina design, ca 1890. In its construction, crackled white slip and red base and rim this is a totally traditional piece of Hopi Polacca ware. However, the design and certainly the shape of 1997-09 are a response to Anglo market forces. The design is classic Polacca “D” and is very much like the corn meal bowl just discussed: white slip and a red rim, though unlike pot 2004-03 it also displays a classic red underbody, Both are painted with a katchina image favored by Thomas Keam and both were probably made in Tewa Hano rather than by Hopi from more theocratic First Mesa villages. For all its traditional design elements, however, the milk pitcher shape is clearly European in origin. The pitcher is evidence of a Tewa potter circa 1890 trying to appeal to an Anglo sense of exotic design while using a familiar Anglo culinary form.
2012-02: Black on cream bowl with wide rim, ca 1895-1901. This bowl or one very much like it is featured in the foreground of a photograph of Nampeyo taken by Sumner Matteson ca 1895-1901. (The date is disputed.) With its wide, flat base and flared rim, this is not a typical Hlopi or Tewa shape. Following the Polacca ware tradition, the bowl is white-slipped, though here the slip has been stone-polished and has not crackled. The intricate black design is modeled after ancient Kayenta black-on-white ware (1260 CE to 1300 CE). As with the Acoma-bird seedpot discussed above (2015-03), when she made this bowl, Nampeyo was experimenting with different design traditions and had not yet found her personal style.
2014-10: Tile with polychromatic Polik’Mana, 1895-1900. Tiles are a new ceramic form developed during this Polacca “D” period, probably because Thomas Keam thought the “exotic” design and flat shape would appeal to tourists who wanted a Native souvenir that would easily pack into a suitcase. The tile has a relatively smooth, but crackled, slip on its front in the Polacca ware tradition. The tile was probably made in a wooden form supplied by Keam.
2013-02: Small tourist canteen with lugs ca 1900. The shape of this canteen with its lugs has a long history at Hopi. The white slip is of Polacca ware tradition, though it is uncrackled. The framing lines and angular design are of Sikyatki origin. Collectively these characteristics suggest the pot is Polacca D. The impractical tiny size seals the deal: this is a commercial pot made for sale to Keam or tourists.
2009-10: Worn Sikyatki Revival canteen ca 1900-1905 by Nampeyo. Although it follows the Polacca ware tradition of a red underbody and a stone-polished crackled white slip on the dome, no Polacca elements are used in this design. Like piki bowl 2009-17, Nampeyo probably made this pot for use in her family, but unlike bowl 2009-17 this canteen draws upon Sikyatki designs for decoration.
2011-28: Flying birds seedjar, 1905-1910. This is one of 11 known pots that were made at Hopi, probably by a woman from Zuni who married a Hopi man, and continued to use Zuni-derived designs. Though her name is unknown, her skill seems equal to Nampeyo. Her use of designs foreign to both Polacca ware and Sikyatki tradition is additional proof of the artistic ferment at Hopi during the closing years of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th.
Pottery with unusual slip combinations:
Occasionally pots were made that were slipped according to two different traditions. Three examples are presented here:
2009-08: Small bowl with white interior slip, footprint design. This bowl was made by Nampeyo about 1890 and is a casually formed bowl small enough to be sold to an Anglo tourist and easily carried home in a suitcase. What is striking and important however is its finish and design. The inside, like traditional Polacca “C” Polychrome, is covered with a crackled white slip. The undecorated exterior is stone-polished as on Sikyatki and hence Sikyatki Revival pottery. Moreover, Nampeyo used a petroglyph foot image on the interior, a source of inspiration usually overlooked by the literature on Nampeyo. This foot image is an experiment in design and is neither a Polacca nor a Sikyatki motif. Thus, while retaining one element of Polacca design (the crackled interior slip), all other elements (external finish and design) are at sharp variance with the Polacca tradition.
1993-04: Bowl with classic “bird hanging from sky band” Sikyatki design, rag-wiped white-slipped interior, polished exterior, by Nampeyo, ca 1895–1905. As detailed in the catalog entry and Appendix B, this is the pivotal pot in the collection because: 1) The design helps us establish an aesthetic link between Nampeyo and the earlier Sikyatki ware and helps us date this link, thus refuting an oft-repeated story conjured up by Fewkes. 2) The white slip on the interior of 1993-04 links the pot to Polacca “D” tradition, while the polished exterior anticipates the style of Sikyatki Revival/Hano Polychrome pottery. 3) From at least 1893 till she became functionally blind around 1920, Nampeyo drew variations of this “hanging sky bird” design on dozens (perhaps hundreds) of vessels. By doing so, Nampeyo was introduced to design strategies that she developed into her signature style.
2017-04: Tray with Polacca-style slip and Polik’Mana interior; Sikyatki Revival polish and design exterior, by Nampeyo. The interior and exterior of this tray are in sharp contrast. The interior is washed with a watered-down uncrackled white Polacca slip. On it is painted a traditional 19th century Polacca image of the Polik’Mana. The exterior is unslipped and has a series of Sikyatki Revival designs floated directly on the pot surface. Two radically different pottery traditions were used to produce this unusual tray form.
Sikyatki Revival pottery:
Although the “Sikyatki Revival” is usually dated as beginning in the 1890’s, Ed wade argues that it began in the early 1880’s:
“The Sikyatki revival makes its first appearance in Hopi ceramics during the 1880’s. The earliest documented piece now known is a double lobe canteen decorated with the classic Nampeyo splayed eagle tail motif, which was donated to the Tennessee Historical Society in 1881 (Wade and Cooke, 2012:153. Also 2012:125. ).”
The four pots in this collection that are discussed in this section are not Polacca ware, but are decorated in the Sikyatki Revival tradition that replaced Polacca finish and design. These examples are included in this essay to illustrate 1) the iconic Nampeyo Sikyatki Revival shape and design (2005-16), 2) how some Polacca characteristics lingered on during the Sikyatki Revival (2014-01), and 3) how Nampeyo continued to innovate even after Sikyatki Revival pottery became her common style (2019-19 and 2014-17).
2005-16: Seed pot with iconic Nampeyo eagle-tail design. This jar displays none of the Polacca design traits discussed above, rather the design techniques that make Nampeyo an artistic genus are displayed here. Made about 1900-1905, the Sikyatki Revival is fully embodied by this eagle-tail seedjar. As noted above, this pot anchors this end of the range of pots describe in this essay, just as the large Polacca C food bowl (2014-06) anchors the other end.
2014-01: Early ca 1905 Sikyatki Revival bowl with incurved red rim. The form and design of this bowl is entirely Sikyatki Revival. However the red rim is a throwback to the Polacca tradition. In this small way it links us to the transitional pots discussed above.
The following two pots are both by Nampeyo and are “eccentric,” of odd form that is not expected. These were made by Nampeyo probably a few years after her classic eagle tail design discussed above and are evidence that she continued to innovate and play with forms even when producing Sikyatki Revival pottery. They are “eccentric,” but they are not Polacca ware.
2019-19: The shape and design of this odd ca 1905-1907 jar has almost no roots in Hopi tradition, but is an imitation of a Mexican Talavera jar with creatures.
2014-17: Handled pots are often made at Hopi to hold ceremonial corn meal, and effigy pots were made during the Polacca ware period, but this ca. 1905 effigy pot with mountain sheep heads and a handle is simply strange.
The two rebirths of white-slipped pottery:
While Nampeyo abandoned the rag-wiped rough white slip she used on bowl 1993-04, she continued to apply stone-polished white slip to her pottery well into the first decade of the 20th century. Because it was stone-polished before being decorated and fired, this slip did not crackle, unlike 19th century Polacca ware. After Nampeyo stopped using this kaolin slip, there was about a gap of about 40 years before Paqua Naha revived smooth stone-polished white slip around 1951 or 1952, about three years before she died. Her daughter, Joy Navasie, continued using this white slip and descendents continue the process. Some examples follow:
2015-12: This lobed-shaped pot by Nampeyo ca 1903-1905 is an unusual shape at Hopi. Notice the white slip, as would be expected in the Polacca ware tradition, but again this slip is stone-polished and thus did not crackle like Polacca ware. The designs are entirely Sikyatki-derived, evidence of the increasing popularity of Sikyatki Revival pots.
2013-17: Small kaolin-slipped bowl with eroded design, by Nampeyo ca 1900 to 1910. The burnished surface of kaolin slip is in sharp contrast to the rough, crackled white slip on Polacca ware pots, but it is quite slick. As a result, this bowl has lost much of the design painted on it.
1992-09: A typical white-shipped jar by Joy Navasie (daughter of Paqua Naha) ca 1960, made about half a century after the two stone-polished white-slip jars by Nampeyo mentioned above.
2012-24: An exquisite white slipped polychromatic jar ca 2010 by Randy Naha, a granddaughter of Paqua Naha.
A lingering of the Polacca/Zuni “rain-bird” design:
Very occasionally Hopi-Tewa and Tewa potters will still use the old Zuni/Hopi rain bird in their designs. Such bowls may be intended for home use because 1) tourist and collectors do not see this as a Hopi motif since it is not Sikyatki-derived, and 2) the rain bird design continues to have a private cultural resonance within families.
1992-04: Probably made in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, this was the first modern pot I had seen decorated with the old Zuni/Polacca rain bird design. Having purchased the pot elsewhere, I visited the painter, Fern Lalo, in her Polacca home. She had a number of pots for sale, all decorated with Sikyatki Revival designs. The Zuni scroll on this piece is “an old design” she told me. She said she did not remember when or why she had made these pots and seemed to attach no special significance to the unusual design.
1997-07: The red rim of this bowl and its rain bird design mark this pot as a throwback to Polacca ware of the 19th century. I imagine this was made in the first third of the 20th century, but it is unsigned and this is just a guess.
2009-11: This bowl has a series of Zuni/Polacca rain birds orbiting around a central core. This bowl is signed “Poolie.” Signing pots made at Hopi was not common as late as the mid-1970’s, so this bowl might be quite new. On the other hand, Katherine Bartlett of the Museum of Northern Arizona, writing in 1936, says that “Poolie” was one of the five most recognized potters at Hopi. Since the MNA encouraged the signing pots beginning in 1930, perhaps this bowl is that old.
Notice that these last two bowls have versions of the Zuni-derived rain bird design orbiting around a central hub. Then go back a take another look at the Polacca C food bowl that began this discussion (2014-06). Over the 30 years of ceramic production that is the focus of this essay, the form and finish of pottery made at First Mesa changed radically, but Hopi is a conservative place. The old Polacca/Zuni tradition occasionally persists, quietly.