There is no closer connection to the earth than a handmade piece of pottery. Hand-crafted from clay found near the potter's home, each piece is made following four basic steps: gathering the clay, forming the pot, polishing and applying the intricate designs, and firing in an outdoor fire.
FOR MANY POTTERS, their spiritual connection with the clay is of great importance and they often begin collecting with a corn meal offering to the Clay Lady. The preparation of the clay is a very physical and time-consuming process.
THE POTTERY IS BUILT with the coil method, as the clay is unsuited to throwing on a wheel. The coils are stacked in layers as the pot takes form, smoothed, sanded and left to dry.
WHEN DRY, a wet clay "slip" is applied and the piece is polished. Using smooth river rocks handed down through the generations, the potter works quickly. The beautiful luster found on pottery is a result of this stone polishing, not applied glazes.
ONCE POLISHING IS COMPLETE, the design is applied using plant and mineral pigments, or a pattern is carved or incised into the piece. Then all that remains is the firing.
A WOOD FIRE IS BUILT OUTDOORS, and pieces of broken pottery and tin are used to surround the pieces being fired to protect them from the flames. Watching the fire closely, the potter judges when to let the fire die down. After the coals have cooled, the pottery is removed and examined closely for cracks or chips. Santa Clara and San Ildefonso pueblos smother their fires to remove the oxygen and give them their signature black ware.
MANY WEEKS IN THE MAKING, handmade pottery is a gift from the earth, shaped by hands taught in the old ways and offered to you.