Bertha Tom and one of her magnificent pots Bertha Tom and one of her magnificent pots
When you think of Navajo pottery dark pine pitched pieces usually come to mind. However Bertha Tom makes her pieces much more like the surrounding Pueblo potters. She uses ancient Anasazi designs to decorate her fabulous work, and many of them can be huge. This talented artist sits down to visit with us and talk about her art.
Perry Null Trading

Your pottery is so different from any Navajo work I have seen before. Was your mother or father a Pueblo?

Bertha Tom

No, I am all Navajo.

Perry Null Trading

The designs on your work, where do they come from?

Bertha Tom

I use Anasazi designs that come from old pottery shards I see on the ground around my home. The shards will only represent a small part of the design, so I will pray to see the whole design.

Perry Null Trading

When did you start making pottery?

Bertha Tom

My grandmother made traditional Navajo pitched pottery and that is who taught me how to make coil pottery. It was 1990 when I completed my first piece.

Perry Null Trading

Your finish is so different from traditional Navajo pitched pottery, where does it come from?

Bertha Tom

I have a real good friend that lives in Hopi. This is a slip she uses for her pottery, it comes in a white and gray.

Perry Null Trading

Take me through the process of making a piece of your magnificent pottery?

Bertha Tom

It starts with cardboard. I will form the shape of the pot I am going to make from cardboard, that is so it will be a perfect shape. Then I will get the mud and begin to roll it out into snake shapes about the length of my arm. After that I will start to form it against the cardboard and smooth it out. When the shape is done I will apply the slip to the pottery.

Perry Null Trading

How about the paint?

Bertha Tom

I purchase the paint from a pottery store in Albuquerque. I forget the name but know it when I see it.

Perry Null Trading

Since you began how many pieces have you made?

Bertha Tom

Probably over 200 of them.

Perry Null Trading

I have seen some huge pots made by you, can you remember the biggest?

Bertha Tom

I have done lots of big pots. I don’t remember the tallest but once I made a large bowl that was 32” across..

Perry Null Trading

Have you ever taught anyone how to make your style of pottery?

Bertha Tom

My brother wanted to learn but he didn’t have the patience to continue.

Perry Null Trading

Where do you take your pottery to sell?

Bertha Tom

Every year I do a demonstration in Sedona and have customers there. I also have a very good customer in Albuquerque, and of course here at Perrys’.

Perry Null Trading

Do you make pottery fulltime?

Bertha Tom

No, I also do jewelry for a manufacturer here in town. I have been doing inlay work for over thirty years.

Perry Null Trading

That is amazing, do you do any other type of art?

Bertha Tom

My grandmother also taught me how to weave so I make rugs, pillow sets. I don’t sell these but decorate my home with them.

Perry Null Trading

Did your grandma sell her rugs or pottery?

Bertha Tom

No, she always told me to never bring them to town. If I sold them then people would learn my secrets on how to make them, but I need money.

Perry Null Trading

thank you , your pottery is beautiful

Bertha Tom

I will bring you a piece of my inlay work so you can see it, thank you.



Available art from: Tom, Bertha