II. Pottery

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 II. Pottery

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PostSubject: II. Pottery   1/6/2010, 12:16 am

Pottery

Origins
Of all Mother Earth's many gifts, few are more wondrous than clay. Properly cleaned, refined, tempered, cured and fired, clay can be shaped into containers for carrying water, for storing and cooking food, for religious as well as decorative objects. Not only is pottery one of humanity's oldest crafts, but it is also one of our oldest art forms.

In the past, the skill of pottery making was associated with Neolithic culture, with the development of agriculture and settled communities (6000 - 4000 BCE). However, Professor Marek Zvelebil and Lecturer Peter Jordan of the University of Sheffield have shown that pottery was being made by Asian hunter-gatherers 13,000 years ago. They believe knowledge of pottery-making spread from China into Japan and westward across northern Eurasia to Europe.

By 4000 - 3000 BCE, Chinese and Middle Eastern potters were using potter's wheels and closed kilns. By the 7th century BCE Chinese potters of the T'ang dynasty were producing unrivaled glazed earthenware as well as porcelain. Greek potters were exporting their characteristic black figure pottery and in Meso-America the Olmecs were creating unglazed tripod pottery.

Although ceramics making began in Central America around 9000 BCE, the skill did not arrive in North America until 4000 BCE when Indians of the Southeast first took it up. About this same time the dog was domesticated and agriculture and a more sedentary life style became common in this area. Using local clays, they made an unglazed slab and coil pottery fired in open pits and burnished with smooth stones chosen for this purpose. Michael Simpson, author of Making Native American Pottery, comments that when examined, some of the polishing stones of one Catawba potter handed down to her by her grandmothers were found to be mastodon teeth!

By 900 CE most of the indigenous peoples of North American were making pottery. The Mississippian Mound Builders were creating outstanding coiled pottery fired in open pits. Their human and animal effigy pots are considered some of the finest North American Indian pottery of that period.

Ironically, the craft came late to the native peoples best known for their pottery today. Contemporary with the Mound Builders, the Anasazi of the Chaco region were making simpler black on white ceramics decorated with geometric patterns, and elaborated gray cooking pots.

Their neighbors, the Mogollan, were making red on brown ware and three circles red on white bowls. At the same time Mimbres potters were beginning to make their well-known ceramics. Mimbres polychrome pottery, a gray or red clay covered by a heavy white slip with a yellow slip added to create a third color, appeared around 900 CE.

Today, when most people think of Native American pottery, they are thinking of the pottery created by descendants of the Anasazi. After their migration from the Chaco area in north-western New Mexico, they settled in a broad region stretching from the Hopi mesas on the west to the Rio Grande pueblos and Taos Pueblo on the northeast. However, many North American tribes-the Catawba to name just one-have successfully revived their traditional pottery and are producing unique and beautiful ceramics.

How Is Traditional Native American Pottery Made?

When a Native American potter goes out to get clay for her or his craft, a great deal more than looking for a clay deposit is involved. Many tribes have traditional clay gathering areas; a prayer and sometimes a small offering is made to thank Mother Earth for providing this material. Traditionally, says Stephan Trimble, Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery, pueblo women, not men were potters, but this is changing.

Clay differs from place to place even within a region. The pueblos of Taos and Picuris use untempered clays with flecks of mica in them to give the pot a sparkling finish. Northern Rio Grande Pueblos temper their raw clay with a mixture of ground volcanic sand and tuff gathered in special areas. Hopi clay, too, is found mixed with the right amount of sand for making pottery.

Once the clay is "picked" it is soaked in buckets to separate out small twigs, pebbles and other coarse material. After the debris is removed, the clay is dried, ground, tempered and stored or used. Water is added to the dry, cured clay and it must be worked, wedged and smoothed to remove any air pockets so that the finished pot doesn't break during firing.

There are a number of techniques for forming traditional pottery. Slab pottery begins with a slab of clay that is hand formed into the shape the potter wants. Some groups such as the Mogollon, used a paddle and anvil technique in which the clay is shaped around a rock or other object known as an anvil, and smoothed with a wooden paddle. Or a carved two-piece mold is used for pottery shapes traditional to a given tribe. A great many native peoples used the coil or coil and slab technique in which a pot is built up using short lengths of clay rolled into a rope and scored so that the coils will stay together when the pot is smoothed and fired.

The finished piece is dried until it is like leather. Then it is sanded. Modern pueblo potters may use anything from corn cobs or pieces of lava to window screen and commercial sandpaper, according to Stephen Trimble. The sanded pot is decorated or carved with designs, covered with a clay slip thinner than the clay used for the body of the pot, and while the slip is still damp, it is burnished using rounded stones handed down from generation to generation of potters. Burnishing gives Native American pottery its satiny finish.

The slip may be the same or a different color from the pottery it covers. It may only be used to cover part of the ceramic. San Ildefonso potters Maria and Julian Martinez developed their signature black on black style when Julian experimented by painting designs on one of Maria's polished black pots using the same black slip she'd used for burnishing. After these pots were fired, they emerged with matte black designs on a polished black background.

Once a piece is slipped and burnished, the potter may add a painted design. Many potters dislike commercial paint brushes and carefully draw their patterns with traditional brushes made of dried yucca leaf chewed so that the exact number of fibers wanted are left at the end of the yucca brush.

Paints are hand mixed, too. Most pueblo tribes use what they call boiled wild spinach (Rocky Mountain bee plant and tansy mustard) to create black pigment. Red, white and yellow come from ground minerals taken from rocks and clays.

The final step is firing the pottery. Open kiln firing is a hazardous, smelly process. Some southeast coast tribes dig shallow fire pits lined with heat deflecting materials such as ashes, flat rocks or sand. The Cherokee traditionally built an earthen mound three to four feet high with draft holes in the bottom. In the center of this mound they layered pottery and wood chips. Then the pots were baked for up to four days. The result was a very hard black pottery. (Making Native American Pottery)

Pueblo potters use a flat protected area with a grate set several inches off the ground so that they can place the pieces to be fired on the grate and put kindling underneath. While southeastern potters use a mix of hard and softwoods for the initial fire, in Arizona and New Mexico where wood is more difficult to come by, potters use slabs of bark, hot burning juniper wood and cow and sheep dung. A barrier may be used to shield the open kiln from the constant winds of the southwest.

The first part of firing oxidizes the pottery: The higher the temperature, the harder the pottery and the better the colors. The open kiln method slow heats the pots to a red-orange and then to a cherry red color. Baked at this temperature for at least two hours, the pottery reaches the maximum hardness possible using this type of kiln.

When the pottery has baked to the right hardness, the fire is reduced or smothered with fine manure which prevents oxygen from reaching the pottery. Total reduction produces black pottery; partial reduction allows the colors to come out. At the right moment the kiln is dismantled and the hot finished ceramics are removed using a pole or a pitchfork.

Looking back, we can see that a lot of work went into making each piece. What if it explodes or cracks during firing? It's part of being a potter. Most potters keep a few of their pieces that cracked during firing. It's part of the traditional way.

Source: http://www.coyotesgame.com/NApotinfo.html

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Item Information
Object Name/Title: Pottery
Catalog Number: SAPR 002
Classification: History/Native American
Artist/Maker:
Eminent Figure/Organization: Creek Indian Tribe
Place of Manufacture: North America
Medium/Materials:Sand/Clay
Measurements:180mm long x 65mm wide x 65mm high / 4oz.
Date Manufactured:
Use Date:
Historical/Cultural Period: Native American
Cultural ID:
Key Descriptor:Pottery, Bowl Rim, Native American, Creek, Muskegee
Description:Large piece of gray/white pottery. Top portion of bowl with handle. Sunburst shaped etchings.





------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Item Information
Object Name/Title: Pottery Shards
Catalog Number: SAPR 003
Classification: History/Native American
Artist/Maker:
Eminent Figure/Organization: Creek Indian Tribe
Place of Manufacture: North America
Medium/Materials:Sand/Clay
Measurements:Various sizes
Date Manufactured:
Use Date:
Historical/Cultural Period: Native American
Cultural ID:
Key Descriptor:Pottery, Shards, Native American, Creek, Muskegee
Description:22 pieces of broken pottery some with designs.






------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Item Information
Object Name/Title: Pottery Shards
Catalog Number: SAPR 004
Classification: History/Native American
Artist/Maker:
Eminent Figure/Organization: Creek Indian Tribe
Place of Manufacture: North America
Medium/Materials:Sand/Clay
Measurements:Various sizes
Date Manufactured:
Use Date:
Historical/Cultural Period: Native American
Cultural ID:
Key Descriptor:Pottery, Shards, Native American, Creek, Muskegee
Description:24 pieces of broken pottery some with designs




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