Native American Ceramics
Pottery amongst any culture is an age-old practice that was based more on practicality than art. Perhaps it is because of the careful attention that was given in the process of creating a practical place to store grain that has made pottery and ceramics a popular collectible item in modern times. While it is difficult to trace or limit Native American ceramics to one particular tribe since each one had its own resources and way of doing things, it is possible to point out the longest surviving style of Native American ceramics.
The southwestern style of the Aztecs and Pueblos has been largely preserved for hundreds of years. This particular style of Native American ceramics is easily recognized and generally sought for its bright colors and unique patterns. Aztec Native American ceramics are often brightly painted in geometric patterns. Pueblo Native American ceramics are frequently designed with intricate geometric patterns, sometimes in black on black and other dark color schemes that are elegant.
Various types of pottery pieces encompass the full breadth of Native American ceramics from vases to pitchers to plates. Pottery once began as clay from the earth, was carefully harvested and patiently shaped and fired outdoors. Because the pieces were meant for practical uses and might be useful in trade, much care was taken in the construction of ancient pottery. Much of that care demonstrated hundreds of years ago and given from start to finish is still utilized in modern Native American ceramics, with secrets of the art passed down through the generations.
Some artisans today specialize in both practical pieces and decorative works, including figurines. Whatever type of Native American ceramics you are interested in, there are numerous fair trade art dealers across the US. Fair trade is important because many Native American crafts are misrepresented and are simply not crafted by Native American artisans.
Regardless of whether you want to assure yourself of acquiring genuine Native American ceramics or you are simply interested in supporting the livelihood of Native American artists, be sure to authenticate the source from which you buy. The Indian Arts and Crafts Law as defined by congress makes it illegal for a merchant to sell products as Native American art if it was not made by an eligible Native American Indian.
Several types of Native American ceramics are created for collecting and displaying, but there are many pieces available for practical everyday use as well. While Southwest Native American styles are the most popular and abundant, pottery and ceramics from various tribal heritages are also an option. In fact, many collectors appreciate having various pieces from different tribal heritages.
If you are considering collecting Native American art and would like to incorporate ceramics into your collection, visit a museum or talk to a curator about different pieces and finishes. Multi-spout wedding pitchers are popular in Southwest styles and many Navajo styles reflect images and patterns of tribal culture. It might be difficult to choose your favorite style, but if you start a collection, you’ll have to start somewhere. You’re guaranteed to have fun finding that starting point.
Joseph Paige © 2006