On Friday, September 24, 2010, the world lost another talented teacher and Native American artist, Carrie Estey. In 2002-2003, while pursuing a Master’s degree in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, Carrie worked at the Arizona State Museum. She served on the team working with Curator Suzanne Griset to produce the exhibition The Pottery Detectives: Decoding the Secrets of Southwest Pottery (on display at ASM March 2003-September 2004).
A multitalented person, Carrie conducted research for the exhibition, painted a mural based on designs found on Hopi pottery, and served as a demonstrating ceramic artist in the Artists in Residence program we ran in conjunction with the exhibition. She was one of 12 artists chosen to participate in this National Endowment for the Arts funded program. For a month of Saturdays, she engaged visitors with her love of ceramics. She demonstrated handbuilding techniques and answered visitors’ questions about her Ojibwe pottery tradition and about the exhibition.
Originally from Minnesota, at age 14 Carrie moved to Santa Fe, NM to study at the Institute for American Indian Arts where she met her husband, Jim Curtis Ortiz from San Juan Pueblo. Carrie learned the Pueblo style of making pots (coil and scrape techniques) while living at San Juan Pueblo. She later divorced, but continued her love for ceramics work. Carrie was first and foremost an Ojibwe potter, trying to resuscitate that tradition which uses paddle and anvil techniques. After completing her studies at the UofA, she moved back to Bemidji, Minnesota where she managed the Minnesota Historical Society’s Mille Lacs Indian Museum.
Carrie loved sharing her passion for Native arts, and we appreciate her contribution to our exhibition and program about the stories ceramic pots tell about the cultures that made them. The rich tradition of pottery making continues in many Native communities worldwide. Carrie was part of that tradition.