UPDATED 9/21/20: Our galleries, museum store, and library remain temporarily closed to the public. We do not yet have a re-opening date. Until we can welcome you back, stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Explore our Online Learning Resources.
ASM is proud of its collection attributed to the renowned Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo (1860?-1942). Some of the attributions are unassailably correct, while others are more uncertain. Since Nampeyo never signed her pieces herself, the task of positively identifying her works is daunting.
With her fame as a potter came a strong incentive for collectors and dealers to identify Hopi pottery as Nampeyo’s, whether they were certain she had actually made a given piece or not. Photographs depicting her with examples of her bowls and jars can be of assistance in helping to authenticate a given piece, but photographers who staged photos of Nampeyo may have included pottery that she did not make. To complicate matters, in her later years Nampeyo often worked in tandem; she would form the vessels and younger relatives, including daughters Annie, Fannie and Nellie, granddaughters Rachel and Daisy, and clan niece Lena Charlie, painted them.
Some pottery in the collection is signed with Nampeyo’s name or is otherwise labeled as Nampeyo’s in writing directly on the piece. One piece has a gummed label, most likely a Fred Harvey Company tag, which reads: "Made by Nampeyo-Hopi." It is documented that her daughters at times signed her name to her work, and traders and dealers may have as well. Through publication of the "signatures", it is hoped that further insights on the past practices of labeling Nampeyo’s pottery can be gained.
About Ancestral Hopi Pottery
Nampeyo is famous for her Sikyatki-revival style pottery. Sikyatki is the name of an enormous ancient Hopi village on the east flank of First Mesa that was abandoned about 1500. The abandonment of Sikyatki is told in Hopi oral tradition as due to a dispute with Walpi, whose descendents still reside on top of First Mesa, that resulted in the destruction of Sikyatki.
Sikyatki was partially excavated by Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution in 1895. His excavations focused on the Sikyatki cemetery areas, as well as the rooms. Nampeyo visited the excavation with her husband, Lesso, and was inspired by the finely made, impeccably decorated jars and bowls of pottery that were being removed.
It is clear that Nampeyo, and also other Hopi and Hopi-Tewa potters, were making innovative pottery before Fewkes’s work at Sikyatki through the encouragement of Thomas Keam who operated the trading post at what is now known as Keams Canyon. But, there is no doubt that the incredible pottery from Sikyatki was a major influence on Nampeyo’s style after 1895. This style emphasizes highly stylized birds, especially macaws. Unfortunately, the identities of the other late 19th century potters, who may well have rivaled Nampeyo in skill and creativity, appear to have been unrecorded.
Nampeyo also drew inspiration from and at times replicated earlier ancestral Hopi pottery types such as Jeddito and Awatovi Black-on-Yellows. In addition, motifs found on these wares, dating around 1300-1500, are incorporated into the designs of later Sikyatki pottery.
Fewkes published several books on the pottery at Hopi, especially Sikyatki wares. These publications have since been reprinted from the original Bureau of American Ethnology series (see bibliography). In these he uses Hopi and his own folk classifications of the iconography to interpret the meaning of the designs.
Adams, E. Charles, ed.
1996 River of Change : Prehistory of the Middle Little Colorado River Valley, Arizona. Tucson : Arizona State Museum, the University of Arizona Press
Allen, Laura Graves
1984 Contemporary Hopi Pottery. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona.
Ashton, Robert Jr.
1976 Nampeyo and Lesou. American Indian Art Magazine 1, no. 3:24-33.
Bartlett, Katherine, and Francis H. Harlow
1978 An Introduction to Hopi Pottery. Flagstaff: Museum of Northern Arizona Press.
Blair, Mary Ellen and Laurence
1999 The Legacy of a Master Potter: Nampeyo and her Descendants. Tucson: Treasure Chest Books.
Bunzel, Ruth L.
1972 The Pueblo Potter: A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art. 1929 Reprint. New York: Dover Publications.
Collins, John E.
1974 Nampeyo, Hopi Pottery: Her Artistry and Legacy. Fullerton, CA: Muckenthaler Cultural Center.
Colton, Harold S., and Mary-Russell Farrell Colton
1943 An Appreciation of the Art of Nampeyo and her Influence on Hopi Pottery. Plateau 15, no. 1:44-45.
1994 Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
1966 Hano, a Tewa Community in Arizona. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Fewkes, Jesse Walter
1896 Preliminary account of an expedition to the cliff villages of the red rock country and the Tusayan ruins of Sikyatki and Awatobi, Arizona in 1895. In Sixteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Smithsonian Institution for 1895. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
1919 Designs on prehistoric Hopi pottery. In 33rd Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Smithsonian Institution for 1897, 1898. Washington, DC. U.S. Government Printing Office.
Hays, Kelly Ann and Diane Dittemore
1990 Seven centuries of Hopi Pottery. American Indian Art Magazine 15, no. 3:56-65.
1988 Nampeyo and her Pottery. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
1994 Hopi Pottery Symbols. Boulder, CO : Johnson Books
Stanislawski, Michael Barr
1979 Hopi-Tewa. In Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 9. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.
Stanislawski, Michael Barr, Ann Hitchcock, and Barbara B. Stanislawski
1976 Identification marks on Hopi and Hopi-Tewa pottery. Plateau 48, nos. 3-4:47-65.
1999 Fewkes and Nampeyo: clarifying a myth-understanding. In Native American Art in the Twentieth Century: Makers, Meanings, Histories, W. Jackson Rushing III, editor. London and New York: Routledge Press, pp. 7-19.
Wade, Edwin L., and Lea S. McChesney
1980 America’s Great Lost Expedition: The Thomas Keam Collection of Hopi Pottery from the Second Hemenway Expedition, 1890-1894. Phoenix: The Heard Museum.
Wyckoff, Lydia L.
1990 Designs and Factions. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.