The pottery from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico represents
the height of traditional craft—the ideal marriage of function and form,
handed down through generations of apprenticeship and practice.
The tradition of clay pottery was born out of necessity for carrying water,
storing seeds and transporting harvested maize.
Acoma Pueblo, or “Sky City”– the name given
by its ancestors a thousand years ago, sits on a mesa that rises sharply
400 feet tall with a flat top and a quarter of a mile wide.
Acoma Pueblo, high on the mesa has not changed
much since Edward Curtis photographed it in the late
1800s, captured here the Feast Day of Saint Estevan.
Wild horses roam the land surrounding the mesa.
On the road to Acoma Pueblo.
Acoma Pueblo today
designs, painted on thin hand coiled
pottery evoke thousands of
years of culture and tradition.
True to the past, these objects prove that
simple methods can create
objects of almost incomprehensible
In the 1950s, four matriarchs born around the turn of the 20th century
resurrected their ancestors’ ancient ceramic art. Marie Z. Chino, Lucy Lewis, Juana Leno
(pictured above) and Jesse Garcia learned and taught, practiced and perfected
skills that would lead to an artistic and economic awakening—bequeathing
a rich heritage to a new generation.
Today, generations of Acoma artisans, many descended from
the Four Matriarchs, chew on yucca plants to create paintbrushes and work freehand,
without models, diagrams or digital patterns.
Acoma Potters such as Paula Estevan
are taking an art form to new heights–one that is always
respectful of their roots and history.
Photographs in order of sequence : Jim Franco; Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s ‘The North American Indian’:
the Photographic Images, 2001; Anna Morasutti; Norene Berry; Gentl + Hyers; Adam Reichardt