When I was in Santa Fe a few weeks ago, I went wandering along Canyon Road to check out the galleries, and made my way into the Robert Nichols Gallery, which features “historic, classic and innovative Native American Pottery.” They also had some fantastic paintings and other items that owner Robert Nichols had found over the years, but it was a display case of historic Hopi pottery that made a strong impression upon me.
Check out these two examples of Hopi pottery, and the gorgeous imagery on both: at left, a Hopi bowl attributed to Nampeyo, circa the 1940s, and at right, a Hopi bowl from the 1930s. I’ve certainly seen Native American pottery in museums, but have never taken the time to learn more about the history and any specifics about techniques, styles, or artists. One of my questions was how the distinction was made between “historical” and non-historical pottery, which may seem like a ridiculous question but the answer proved to be an intriguing point that grabs my curiosity. It was explained to me that the expansion of railroads in the southwest greatly affected Pueblo pottery culture, bringing curious and inquisitive tourists within reach of the artists. Native American pottery pieces made prior to this time period were considered historic, since they were not made for sale as souvenirs. If there are any experts out there reading this and if I’ve oversimplified the explanation or misunderstand this info, feel free to share your knowledge in the comments section below.
At any rate, seeing these and having this brief introduction into some of the history has me hungry to learn and see more!