This collection began with a couple of Hopi-Tewa pots on a shelf. The website came along a few hundred pots later—and the numbers keep growing.
Of what use are the collection and website? Several come to mind.
First, many of the people who access the website are collectors or galleries looking for quick information about a particular potter. The “Artist List” allows them to find such information. Others are interested in a particular type or design of pottery and the “Category List” serves a similar function. Often such folk have a particular pot that they want to compare to similar pots in this collection.
Second, there is increasing internet access on the reservation and some Hopi and Tewa-Hopi potters have used this website to see pots they made earlier in their career or see pots made by other family members or friends. Often a potter has several pots in the collection spanning different periods of her/his career. The collection has particularly strong representation of potters in the Nampeyo family (seven generations) and Chapella family (four generations). Numbers of families other than these two are represented in the collection and potters from different families are often linked by marriage. It is my hope that access to generations of pottery will inspire Hopi and Tewa-Hopi artists. As internet connectivity becomes more available on the reservation, it is expected that this use of the collection will grow. When this collection is absorbed into the collection of the Museum of Northern Arizona, and subsequently is loaned to reservation museum when one is established, potters will be able access the pottery directly.
Third, the collection has become more than a series of pots on a shelf. It has its own internal structure and logic. Thus, it can be used as source data for the development of Native American art history. For example, Appendix B documents the close connection between a specific Sikyatki pot and a bowl in this collection. One result of this discussion is a typology of six design strategies that are diagnostic markers that help us assess if a pot is by Nampeyo. You might also take a look at Appendix E “Nampeyo signed pottery: A history and theory” which uses the collection’s trove of Nampeyo family pots to suggest how we might determine the painter of pots formed by Nampeyo but painted and signed by a relative.. These are just two of the five collection-based essays in the Appendices. Similarly, the development of artistic expression within families can be traced (cf. Chervnsik, 2003). The development of particular designs or design motifs might also be examined.
Because the collection covers pottery made over a range of more than 500 years (though mostly the last 150 years), changes in pottery style over time can be examined using collection pots. For example, Appendix A is a discussion of stylistic changes of pottery made at Hopi from 1870 to about 1900. Because it is online, the collection is also available as a data base for other researchers.
To summarize, this collection and its associate website have multiple purposes: 1) as an aid to collectors and dealers, 2) as an inspiration to current Hopi and Tewa-Hopi potters, and 3) as a source of data for the development of art history. Finally there is the most obvious purpose. 4) These pots are beautiful. Seeing them, even online, adds pleasure and joy to life. Though I admit that living with them is even better.
Traditionally the Hopi and Tewa-Hopi view pots as living beings akin to humans and thus having their own personalities and needs. Pots are not objects in this tradition, but have a social presence and communicate with aware viewers. If you sense such a respectful dialogue in these pages, then perhaps I have served the rich culture from which these pots emerge.