Southwest Crossroads Spotlight
From earliest times, Pueblo Indian potters have made ceramic pots for practical daily use. Pueblo people carried, cooked, and stored water and food in pottery. They also used it for ceremonial purposes. The exceptional quality of Acoma pottery made it a desirable trade item. The Acomas traded with the Rio Grande Pueblos, the pueblos at Zuni and Hopi, and the early Spanish settlers.
“Woman Carrying Pot on Her Head (Mrs. Frank Johnson, Acomita),” Unidentified (possibly R.D. Taylor) (Photographer)
Acoma pottery is famous for its thin walls and eye-dazzling black-on-white and red designs. In 1992 there were more than 375 potters working at Acoma. Today, Acoma potters of all ages work in traditional and contemporary styles. They use a variety of techniques ranging from hand-built pots to modern, commercial slip-cast techniques. Sometimes Acoma potters use traditional wood fuel and cow dung firings; sometimes they fire their pots in electric kilns.
Acoma pottery flourishes in today’s Southwest Indian art markets. The Indian Market in Santa Fe every August is one of the largest shows of its kind. There, potters from Acoma and the other pueblos exhibit and sell their pottery to collectors and visitors from all over the world. “Acoma Potter Mary Histea Firing Pots,” Unidentified (Photographer)
Acoma pottery is an important part of the pueblo economy, whether it brings in a few dollars for a tourist item or thousands of dollars for a collector’s choice pot. At Acoma, pottery still plays an important role in traditional pueblo life. In many homes, Acoma pots are treasured as a reminder of their rich heritage.
For hundreds of years, people exchanged pots from pueblo to pueblo. They offered pots as friendship and wedding gifts. Potters often borrowed decorative ideas from each other and traded techniques. Similarities among Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni pots express this process of exchange. Potters from Zia Pueblo and others along the Rio Grande also traded pots and ideas with Acoma, their neighbor to the west.