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Grounded in Clay - The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery

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By Pueblo Pottery Collective, Elysia Poon & Rick Kinsel 

No art form is more associated with the Native Americans of the Southwest than pottery. For centuries, Pueblo people have made beautiful pottery, often painted with intricate designs, for everyday activities such as cooking, food storage, and gathering water, and for ceremonial use.

Vessels of these types have been found at ancient sites including Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. The tradition of pottery-making continues to thrive among Pueblo communities in the Southwest, and while pottery is still made for practical purposes, it is also commonly produced for the art market.

Since the time of the Ancestral Puebloans, pottery has been made predominantly by women. The pots are created from natural clay using a coil method; they are hand-painted and then fired outdoors. Designs vary from one Pueblo to another, but many symbols and motifs are shared by the Pueblos.

An impressive survey of more than 100 pieces of historic Pueblo pottery, Grounded in Clay is remarkable for the fact that its content has been selected by Pueblo community members. Rather than relying on Anglo-American art historical interpretations, this book foregrounds Native American voices and perspectives. More than 60 participants from 21 Pueblo communities in the Southwest – among them potters and other artists, as well as writers, curators, and community leaders – chose one or two pieces from the collections of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Vilcek Collection in New York.

They were then given the freedom to express their thoughts in whichever written form they wished, prose or poem. Their lively, varied contributions reveal the pottery to be not only a utilitarian art form but also a powerfully intangible element that sits at the heart of Pueblo cultures.

With magnificent photography throughout, Grounded in Clay showcases the extraordinary history and beauty of Pueblo pottery while bringing to life the complex narratives and stories of this most essential Native American art.

Merrell Publishers, 2022, hardcover, 9.75 x 11.5 in, 288 pages.