Nampeyo Hopi Tewa Pottery

Though the First Mesa Tewa village of Hano has been occupied for more than three centuries and the people there have mixed freely with their Hopi hosts, Hano still maintains its separate Tewa language and cultural identity. Nampeyo’s father was a Hopi from the First Mesa village of Walpi. She spent a lot of time with her maternal grandmother who taught her the rudiments of pottery making. This would be the influence of Nampeyo Hopi Tewa Pottery.

At the time, Hopi potters were turning out utility ware they didn’t even bother to decorate. What designs they used were a mash-up of Spanish, Tewa and Zuni influence. It seemed that traditional ceramics were about to die out on the Hopi mesas.

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Fifteen-year-old Nampeyo was photographed by the legendary William Henry Jackson, the first of many to immortalize her. Her first husband was said to be so intimidated by her beauty he never consummated the marriage, afraid to have such a beautiful wife. She was already becoming an unusually talented potter.

When, in 1875, Thomas Keam opened his trading post in the nearby canyon named for him, Nampeyo finally had an outlet to sell her work. The big breakthrough came in 1895 when her Hopi husband Lesou went to work excavating the nearby Hopi ruin known as Sikyatiki. She saw many funery bowls that were uncovered and gathered large sherds of pottery in order to copy down the designs.

 

Though this practice led to the term “Sikyatki Revival”, Nampeyo Hopi Tewa Pottery never was a copy. She used the shapes and designs in original conformations that she made her own. The style was later called “Hano Polychrome” in her honor. It took Nampeyo quite awhile to find the original source of clay used by the women of Sikyatki, but that was necessary to get the right effect.

Hopi Pottery - Setalla Brothers Hopi Pottery - Setalla Brothers

In 1898 she demonstrated pottery making at the Field Museum in Chicago. Over the years she was photographed by every passing Anglo with a camera and her image became iconic in the world of Indian art. Her likeness appeared in books, pamphlets, tourist brochures, and even on Fred Harvey posters. All of this attention made the other Hopi potters jealous of course.

In order to restore the peace on first mesa, Nampeyo taught dozens of women how to improve their pottery so it would sell. Many of them imitated her, and some re-created Sikyatki pieces that traders sold as genuine antiquities. She worked on two occasions at the “Hopi House” at Grand Canyon where she was seen by thousands of visitors. By 1910 she was known across Europe and seriously collected. She had become a legend.

 

At least seventy five family members carry on her tradition. She is often given credit for having saved the Hopi pottery tradition from oblivion.

Unfortunately we do not have any Nampeyo pottery. However, we do have a nice collection of Pueblo Pottery, click to view our collection