Notebook, 1993-

CERAMICS -- The Mimbres Art and Archaeology [Fewkes] -- Mimbres Painted Pottery [Brody]

Generations in Clay -- Pueblo Pottery: The Prehistoric Period -- Pueblo Pottery: The Protohistoric and Historic Periods

[Notes From: Generations In Clay, Pueblo Pottery of the American Southwest, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred Plog, Northland Publishing in Cooperation with the American Federation of Arts, 7th Printing, 1989.]

Introduction (cont.)

Firing. [pg. 23-24] Firing consists of heating an excavated basin or kiln in the ground and placing the dried clay vessels on supports such as rocks or potsherds. Large sherds are placed around and over the vessels to protect them from contact with the fuel, which is arranged around them and then ignited. The flow of oxygen is controlled by varying the amount of fuel and the number of protective sherds in the kiln to produce a reducing or an oxidizing atmosphere. An oxidizing atmosphere is one in which oxygen reaches the vessel surface while it is being fired; a reducing atmosphere is one that lacks oxygen.

Most firing temperatures achieved are in the 625-950 degree C range. Today, fuels often consist of dried dung, but wood is also used and was probably the common fuel of the past. The prehistoric Hopi are known to have used coal.

Finally. [pg. 24] The last option in the manufacturing process is deciding whether or not a vessel is to be smudged, that is, coated with a dense black layer on one or both surfaces. Interior smudging can be accomplished by removing the vessel from the fire before it has cooled and filling it with organic material such as pine needles. The heat will cause the needles to carbonize and the carbon will be driven into the surface. If the surface had been polished, the result will be an iridescent black finish.

In some pueblos today, the entire vessel or group of vessels is covered with powdered manure at the end of the firing to smudge the complete surface. Painting of the vessel to be smudged will result in differences between the matte black areas that were painted, and the glossy black areas that were polished. Present-day artists also use the process of resist smudging on parts of a vessel, and the part not smudged becomes a field for an engraved design. Smudging was not common in the Pueblo area in earlier periods, but there are examples from the late Protohistoric period of the Upper Rio Grande Valley.

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Ceramic design. [pgs. 24-26] This is a more difficult and problematic issue than technology. In part, this difficulty is a reflection of the complexity of decisions that are involved in the creation of a design. A design can involve the manipulation of space on a vessel surface in almost endless variety. Moreover, due to the fundamentally cognitive nature of creativity, design studies remain an area of disagreement among social scientists.

As a result, there are many different perspectives that can and have been taken concerning design. For example, one might take the position that art is ˝...a type of sensual and symbolic play that is characteristic of adults and in which acts or objects are created and appreciated.ţ [12] This position emphasizes the creative aspect of a design as the potter plays with available symbols to create new ones, or to create original arrangements of old symbols. Were this position true in its most extreme form, there would be little that linked the works of different artists.

Functional interpretations of design have also been made. H. Martin Wobst, for example, has argued that when a large number of people are interacting, a need arises to signal identities, and these signals are carried through material items having stylistic messages. [13] By this view, the design constitutes a regularly structured communication system. [14] As such, style is information and serves to provide identity. Were this view exclusively correct, the artist would be bound by rigid traditions and innovation would be almost impossible.

A third position views art from precisely such a perspective. In his study of Mimbres art, for example, J. J. Brody argues that ˝...every art object belongs to a tradition; every art tradition is made up of objects in a sequence; the form of each object is predicted by earlier ones in its sequence and predicts the later ones.ţ [15] Mimbres art, he concludes, comes out of a tradition that developed over several hundred years and which borrowed heavily at its beginning from the Hohokam and Mogollon.

A fourth position is reflected in the work of Shepard, who points out that as long as pottery-making was a household craft, its decoration was popular art, representing prevalent standards and average tastes. [16] As such, it was subject to the expressions of the beginner and the inept as well as the skilled person.

Were any of these positions uniquely true, we would learn far less than we do from the study of ceramics. It is from the unique and creative aspects of design that the works of individuals and/or specialists are identified. The use of design to communicate allows us to identify traditions, as well as to identify boundaries between contemporaneous cultures.

Whichever of these points of view motivates a particular piece of research, an attempt is made to group similar designs. Design can be viewed simultaneously at a number of different levels. At the most basic level, designs--especially geometric ones--can be described in terms of the simplest regular parts, which may be termed elements. Kenneth M. Chapman refers to these parts as the basic irreducible units of design. [17] Examples of elements are a line, a filled triangle, or a hatched band. Only the most simple designs can be separated on the basis of the elements of which they are composed.

In more complex styles, patterning must be identified in typical combinations of elements or their spatial structure, or both. Typical combinations of elements are generally called motifs, although they usually include similar spatial structures or design layouts. Because the layout of a design is critical to the recognition of elements, the term motif will be used here to include both.

A motif is necessarily more varied and distinctive than its elements. In a study at Zu÷i, it was found that potters did not think of elements as they are often conceived; rather, motifs were the units with which the potter composes. [18] Shepard points out that it is not always possible to recognize the potter═s motif, but she considers it significant when there is repetition of arrangements of elements on the same vessel and the appearance of similar structures among vessels in a group. [19]

A somewhat ore formal approach to studying the spatial structure of design uses the concept of symmetry. Designs or motifs on a single vessel may be arranged in respect to one another in a number of quite different ways--as a repeated string, as mirror images, and so on. Symmetry is one quality of design that most readily lends itself to precise definition, since it is based on a mathematically derived spatial arrangement.

The term ˝styleţ is used to encompass vessels and sherds that share elements, motifs, and symmetry. Vessels of the same style are similar but rarely identical to one another in any of these areas. Because the same style can be executed on technologically dissimilar vessels, styles can often crosscut wares. On vessels from the Prehistoric period, archaeologists refer to these as ˝horizon styles,ţ because they were produced during relatively short periods and achieved widespread popularity throughout the Anasazi area.

One fundamental distinction used in analyzing early Anasazi ceramic styles is between ˝ceramicţ and ˝basketryţ styles. Basketry styles in pottery appear to reflect the process of constructing a basket, by beginning the design at the bottom and building up from a circular base. In contrast, ceramic designs begin from the rim down or at least partition the vessel into design fields that are independent of construction of the vessel base. The earliest indigenous styles seem to reflect a basket-derived model rather than the ceramic style already established by the Mogollon. Thus, while basic manufacturing and design skills were certainly learned from the Mogollon, the first locally executed art styles were distinctive. Recalling the earlier discussion of the role of painted symbols in structuring boundaries, the Anasazi seem to say ˝we are not Mogollonţ through their almost certainly explicit selection of a different way of going about the task of design.

This description of decisions that are made in the manufacture of ceramics summarizes a complex technical process and indicates some of the alternatives used in the Pueblo area. Nevertheless, no activity of a group occurs without involving other sociological and ideological considerations and related concepts. These direct all phases of pottery art. They are the conditions under which the craft is learned, the cooperation necessary for accomplishing certain of the goals, and the ritual observances that might accompany the group═s activities. Archaeologists are rarely interested in art for art═s sake, but study artistic expression to learn about prehistoric societies. Let us briefly consider the diversity and complex interaction of such studies.

Perhaps the basic purpose of examining variation in pottery wares and types is to define cultural boundaries and to date prehistoric events. Subtle changes in art styles through time have given the art historians and the archaeologist keys to chronology, the interaction of the people, and the evolution of designs in different regions. A sudden shift in design style and the appearance of distinctive styles or horizon markers are thought to be correlated with changes in social phenomena. When distinctive types are found far from their normal area of production, exchange and trade are indicated . . . .

Traditionally, the Pueblo potter out to gather clay must first ask ˝Clay Womanţ (or ˝Clay Motherţ) for permission to take of her being. For example, Zu÷i women who gather clay from Corn Mountain believe that ˝Clay Woman of Corn Mountain gives of her flesh.ţ [25] ˝When Lucinda of Isleta was learning new styles in pottery from her Laguna neighbor and they went together to get clay and the neighbor taught Lucinda how to ask the Clay Mother for her substance.ţ [26}

In the pages ahead, much of this human dimension is lost to the reader, for it is the dimension of culture that does not remain for hundreds of years in wait for the archaeologists. From the bits and pieces of evidence generated by highly specific studies comes our understanding of the dimensions of Pueblo ceramic art. The personal drama of artistic creation in clay is largely mute, but it had to have once been there. We know this because later generations of Pueblo potters have told us so. We now turn to the pottery of these generations in the Modern period, working backward in time to the pottery of their ancestors.

Misc. Examples
[pgs. 102-103] A radically different concept was used in the Four Mile style, made from AD 1300 to 1400 or 1450 and found on Four Mile Polychrome, Show low Polychrome, Kinishba Polychrome, and Point of Pines Polychrome. The focus of attention shifted from the bowl wall to the center of the bowl, with the use of large single motifs. Divisions of the field still existed, and there was occasional repetition of like units or alteration of unlike units. Many pieces lacked bilateral symmetry when the field was divided into unlike areas, and the organization of the design frequently left out opposed similarly-shaped units. Internal elaboration in motifs included parallel hatched elements, stepped line fillers, negative stepped units, dots, and occasional patches of white paint. Geometric figures began to evolve into biomorphic forms, especially birds. White paint as well as black was used to form outlines or filler designs on the bowl interior. On the exterior, white motifs sometimes formed a band framed by wide black lines. On Showlow Polychrome, the interior surface of bowls was slipped white to form the field on which black paint was applied; the exterior remained red slipped and was decorated with a band of black and white motifs.

[pg. 62] Fig. 69 Santa Clara Carved Red, Teresita Naranjo (Apple Blossom), Ca. 1974. Height 16.5 cm. Diameter 25.4 cm . . . . The use of a light cream color in the carved area on this jar heightens the contrast of the raised-relief bird-Awanyu [or Avanyu: A horned and plumed serpent representation. Also known as ˝kolowisi.ţ] design.

[pg. 61] Fig. 68. Santa Clara Red, Margaret Tafoya. CA. 1975. Height 38.1 cm. Diameter 33 cm . . . . This jar is distinguished by its form and polish. The artist has used the bear paw design as well as a narrow band applique.

[pg. 40] Fig. 27. Jar, Al Colton, Hopi Pueblo. Ca. 1977. Height 14 cm. Diameter 39.4 cm . . . . This artist is noted for his ceramic creations that combine graceful form and sculptured appliqu┌--in this case, four modeled corn ears. The influence of his aunt, Elizabeth White, is evident. Continue

[Generations In Clay, Pueblo Pottery of the American Southwest, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred Plog, Northland Publishing in Cooperation with the American Federation of Arts, 7th Printing, 1989.]>/font color=cococo>



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