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More About Pueblo Pottery

Pueblo Pottery is hand made with clay that is taken from the foothills near their pueblo. After the clay is gathered it is weathered outside for one month before being used. It is then cleaned and refined by hand, soaked and strained through a fine screen to remove any roots, sand and rock particles. The clay is then mixed with a white sand, also found on the pueblo. This mixture is then stepped on with bare feet for about two to three hours, until thoroughly mixed. This whole process takes about one week.

The next step is the actual physical creation of the pot. Traditional shapes from the Pueblos include, the wedding vase, storage jar, water jar, engagement basket, bowls and seed pots. Once the shape is decided on, the pot is hand coiled using ropes of clay. It is then set out in the sun to dry for one or two days. Once dry, the pot is then sanded, wiped off with a damp cloth to remove any dust and then polished. The polishing is done with an oil based clay slip and a smooth river rock. Ten to fifteen slips/coats are applied and stone rubbed while the slip is still damp on the pot, then the pot is rubbed continuously with the stone until glossy. This process takes about two to four hours depending on the size of the pot. The pottery is then left to set one day before firing.

The pottery is fired outside on the ground with metal sheets covering the pots, wood is then stacked around the metal and set on fire. Firing time is roughly fifteen to twenty minutes, this results in the natural red tone of the clay. The black pottery is achieved by a process of reduction. During the firing, after the first fifteen minutes, the fire is smothered with manure and left for about an hour. It is the lack of oxygen that turns the clay black.

The pottery from Santa Clara Pueblo is traditionally deep carved and is is done after the pot is made and has set for a day, so that the clay is not completely dry. The pottery from San Ildefonso Pueblo is traditionally black on black which means that the designs are painted on after the polishing is complete. Both Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Pueblos make etched pottery and those on the other hand are completed after the firing process, the designs are chipped or scratched onto the pot by means of a sharp thin tool.