If you’ve lived or traveled in the Southwest U.S., you’ve likely seen Acoma pottery. I’ve been in Arizona for a few days and have been seeing it here. Then, with coincidental timing, Acoma pottery popped up in my email box today — Acoma pots from DARA Artisans. Enjoy these bold graphic designs, then I’ll tell you a bit about the pottery and Acoma Pueblo:
You might think from the perfect symmetrical shapes, that this pottery is made on a spinning wheel. But actually, the traditional Acoma pottery vessels are built up with row upon row of tiny clay coils! It’s called “hand coiled” pottery. Then the coils are smoothed into the perfect shapes you see in the finished pots. I’ve taken a pottery class where we hand-built things with coils, and it takes tremendous skill to get a perfect smooth shape!
And what adds even more to the amazingness is the designs are hand-drawn. They’re so precise, but they’re not digital or stenciled. I can’t imagine the discipline and control it takes to draw these pots. As DARA Artisans explains, the artist divided the curved canvas of this pot into halves, quarters, eighths, and then sixteenths. And, she painted these precise shapes with a brush she makes from the yucca plant:
You can see here there’s variety in the designs, but one commonality is that they are often symbols of nature and the cycles of life.
As explained by DARA Artisans, these pots are not just decorative. They were functional, used for storage and to carry water. A special shape was used to store seeds for planting. The pots that have just a small hole in the top were used for seeds, so the seeds were less likely to spill out. The seed pots are my favorite shape:
The black and white and bold graphic style of pottery is made by artisans at the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. The Acoma Pueblo is worth a visit if you’re ever in New Mexico. It’s about 60 miles west of Albuquerque. I visited many years ago and bought my own little Acoma pottery bowl there. The Pueblo is in a stunning location! It’s on top of this mesa with sheer cliff drop-offs:
It was smart to build here. They could see potential invaders from many miles away and had natural protection. You’ll realize why if you visit — you’ll be climbing “stairs” cut into the rock, all the way up the side of that cliff to reach the top!
If you’re interested in Acoma pottery, there’s the collectible pieces that are made the more traditional way, built up with coils, and they are more expensive. There is also Acoma pottery made with molds and pre-made clay pots and these have a lower cost. You can also find vintage Acoma pottery pieces for sale on eBay. I will warn though, check the dimensions when buying online, because these pots can be much smaller than you think they are from the photos.