Sunday, January 23, 2011

So You Want to Buy Some Pueblo Pottery...



I was back in New Mexico for a few days around New Years to load up all of our stuff that was still in storage in Santa Fe. Shortly after my arrival, my brother, a connoisseur of book stores, took me to a great one on Central Avenue in Albuquerque. I like finding inexpensive vintage books and magazines on Native American culture, and this place had plenty!

I was excited to find a beautiful magazine from 1961 called "Indian Life". It was published by the "Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Association", which produces the yearly Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Exposition in Gallup, NM. I guess the magazine served as sort of an informative guide to the Ceremonial and souvenir of the event. It is printed in full, blazing color, and has amazing photos and some fun articles. I didn't have an opportunity to read the whole thing until a few weeks ago, and was delighted to discover a big article about pottery inside! Given the theme of my most recent blog posts, I figured it would be fun to share it.

It was written in a different time, remember, so you'll have to excuse certain outdated, wince-inducing turns of phrase (the "unsophisticated Indian potter"? yikes!) Oh, and next time you are shopping for a piece of pottery high on the mesa at Acoma, you probably shouldn't "wet your finger and run it along the paint" --trust me, that "paint" isn't going to run, though you may have to if the potter catches you subjecting her art to your dripping finger!

Clicking the images below takes you to the Picasa album, where you can use the magnifying glass icon to make them bigger!








"The pottery bug is virulent and there is no known cure" the article proclaims; and rightly so, I'm sure, though my current budget certainly keeps the bug quite in check. If only a fine piece of pottery could be had today at the prices of 1961!

I really enjoyed sharing my experience at Felipe's studio with you all. For the advanced potter wishing to try their hand at micaceous pottery, Felipe does sell and ship his micaceous clay in 25 pound bags for $50.00 plus $10.00 shipping. I didn't realize that until after my visit. The morning before our moving day, I felt compelled to rush back out to La Madera to buy a bag. When I pulled up the smell of cooking bacon greeted me; breakfast at Owl Peak was in full swing!


The clay is supplied with dried squares of clay to be re-hydrated and used as slip; it is an extra sparkly clay dug from a pit that has a higher proportion of mica.

Not only is Felipe a renowned potter, sought-after medicine man and all around nice guy, it turns out he also opens up his home as a Bed and Breakfast! That morning the table was crowded with visitors: a young man who directs commercials in Los Angeles, a writer, a purveyor of high-end lumber, another local potter, etc... all happy to have found themselves together, enjoying good coffee (from micaceous pottery mugs!) and good food under the roof of one very talented and generous "master of ceremonies", Felipe Ortega!

As I departed, this time for good, with my bag of precious clay, a retired couple was ambling up towards the studio, excited to procure a fine piece of micaceous pottery from the source. As he did with me, Felipe greeted them warmly and ushered them in out of the cold morning air, and just as it was for me, I know that day will be a highlight of their stay in Northern New Mexico!

1 comment:

Josiah Wintermute said...

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John Wintermute