U.S. National Park Service. Casa Rinconada Time Lapse with Star Paths, 2010. Digital image. National Parks Gallery. https://npgallery.nps.gov/AssetDetail/9C9F17E5-155D-451F-

Built from the Earth

Pueblo Pottery from the Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection


Built from the Earth uses the spiral to present masterworks of Pueblo pottery from the Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection. The exhibition highlights the skill and artistry of potters from eight of the Pueblo communities in New Mexico: Haak’u (Acoma), Halona:wa (Zuni), K’awaika (Laguna), Kewa (Santo Domingo), Kotyit (Cochiti), P’o Woe-geh Owingeh (San Ildefonso), Tamaya (Santa Ana), and Ts’iya (Zia).

The form of the spiral has several meanings in Pueblo culture. Delicately painted on pottery with thin yucca brushes, the shape evokes feathers, prayers, and the community’s migration history. These spiraled meanings come to play in the very creation of Pueblo pottery, in which clay is coiled in layer upon layer and smoothed into the final form — a vessel built from earth.


We thank our cultural advisors for giving their time and insight in support of this exhibition: Joseph Aguilar (P’o Woe-geh Owingeh/San Ildefonso), Monica Silva Lovato (Kewa/Santo Domingo), Curtis Quam (Halona:wa/Zuni), Monyssha Trujillo (Kotyit/Cochiti), and Brian Vallo (Haak’u/Acoma).

Pueblo Peoples

Our communities, or Pueblos, are very similar in terms of family, clan, and social construct which are rooted in ancestral Pueblo values and traditional knowledge. While our languages and cultural practices vary, we are all part of a life way that is ancient and very unique. Our contemporary lives and home settings have changed, we are part of western society, we contribute to the advancement of our local, state, and national economy, science, governments, and other areas. We are survivors and do all we can to protect our sovereignty.

Brian Vallo

Places, or homelands more specifically, are situated within a traditional Indigenous landscape that simultaneously embody history, both physically and spiritually. The Tewa Pueblos, for example, conceptualize their villages as being geographically centered; the physical center of each village simultaneously serves as the connection to the larger cosmological landscape, which overlays the physical landscape – the mountains, hills, rivers, etc. Our culture, in many ways, is literally and figuratively inscribed onto our homelands.

Joseph Aguilar

When Spanish conquistadors first explored what is now the American Southwest in the sixteenth century, they encountered several Indigenous communities who lived in permanent housing structures, unlike nomadic peoples found elsewhere in the Americas. The Spanish called these people “Pueblo,” after the Spanish word for town. Despite this generalization, these peoples had a variety of languages, religious beliefs, and artistic traditions.

Today, there are twenty-one Pueblo communities, mostly found in New Mexico. In recent years, these communities have taken steps to return to using their own languages to identify themselves, rejecting the names given to them by the Spanish, which were often associated with Catholic saints. In this exhibition, we have used the Indigenous name for each Pueblo, out of respect for the sovereignty of these living peoples.

Creating Pueblo Pottery

Gathering Clay

Maker formerly known [Haak’u (Acoma Pueblo)]
Acomita Polychrome Jar, ca. 1840
Clay and pigment, 10 x 11 ¼ x 11 ¼ in,
Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection of Native American Art, 2022-16.5
Photography by Andy Duback

Pueblo potters begin by gathering clay. Families will often head out together to gather wet clay from areas where it naturally forms. Temper is often added to strengthen the clay and prevent it from cracking. The material used for temper varies.

Consider the materials in this deceptively simple jar. Clay, temper, slip, and pigments all come together to form a flowing design. The maker balanced the natural color of the slips available in the landscape around her with red and black pigments made from plants and minerals.


Maker formerly known [Ts’iya (Zia Pueblo)]
Water Jar, 1920–30
Clay and pigment, 8 ½ x 12 x 12 in.
Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection of Native American Art, 2023-5.6
Photograph by Andy Duback

This shapely jar, with the tall sides and steep shoulder, must have been hard to form. Imagine coiling up the clay, building the walls of the jar layer by layer, with anticipation of achieving the stately form of this water jar.


Maker formerly known [P’o Woegeh Owingeh (San Ildefonso Pueblo)]
Olla, 1900–10
Clay and pigment, 11 x 14 x 14 in.
Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection of Native American Art, 2023-5.10
Photography by Andy Duback

This jar was polished with a cloth; we can tell by the tiny marks caused by the fabric brushing over the surface of the clay. This technique was brought to San Ildefonso around 1910, replacing the previous technique of polishing with a smooth pebble.


Maker formerly known [Halona:wa (Zuni Pueblo)]
Polychrome Jar, ca. 1865
Clay and pigment, 11 ½ x 14 x 14 in.
Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection of Native American Art, 2023-5.15
Photography by Andy Duback

Pueblo potters paint their pottery with brushes made from natural fibers, like yucca. The fine lines crisscrossing through the triangular designs of this jar would have been made with a very thin yucca brush. Potters are inspired to make designs based on the natural world, including elements like mountains, rain, and birds.


Maker formerly known [Kewa (Santa Domingo Pueblo)]
Storage Jar, 1880–90s
Clay and pigment, 18 x 20 x 20 in.
Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection of Native American Art, 2023-5.2
Photography by Andy Duback

Historic Pueblo pottery is fired outdoors, using wood or manure from cows and sheep as fuel. This jar shows evidence of the flames that transformed it into solid ceramic in the black smudge marks near the bottom. These are caused by the oxidizing environment in the center of the fire and are considered particularly beautiful because they are so difficult to control.

Today, firing pottery outdoors can be dangerous. Climate change has contributed to increased numbers and intensity of wildfires in the American Southwest. Potters have to be careful when firing pottery, and often alert local fire departments beforehand. Some potters have switched to using commercial kilns.

Built from the Earth: Pueblo Pottery from the Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection Webinar

To celebrate the online and onsite exhibitions Built from the Earth: Pueblo Pottery from the Anthony and Teressa Perry Collection, Associate Curator of Native American Art Victoria Sunnergren discusses the stylistic features and technical processes involved in creating these masterworks, and the ways in which Pueblo potters drew on their environment and worldview to imbue their works with meaning and symbolism. Recorded on May, 17, 2023.

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