Contemporary Pueblo Pottery inspired by ASM Canteens

Susan Folwell, ceramic artist of Santa Clara Pueblo. ASM Catalog No.2008-841-image13

In 2008, renowned ceramic artist Susan Folwell from Santa Clara Pueblo visited ASM’s pottery vault for a close look at the canteen collection to learn more about the different ways these vessels were constructed. As explained by the artist, “My first inspiration at trying to tackle the challenging form of a canteen came about when I visited the pottery vault at the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus. I was intrigued particularly by reparations that had been made to these clay canteens after years of use and abuse. Metal backings adhered with pine pitch, canteens worn through that brought to mind the idea that this was a vessel that in all likelihood might have held more than water, i.e., whiskey, beans, dried corn, you name it.”

This visit inspired her to create a number of astoundingly original canteens.  We are fortunate to be able to share a sample of these works. Images are provided courtesy of Charles King, along with Susan Folwell’s commentary.

Bat Signal, ca. 2012
Santa Clara clay, acrylic paint, India ink, wood stain, leather, metal brads
Charles King, photographer. (Photograph courtesy of Charles King)

“One of the first half dozen canteens I had under my belt was the “bat signal” canteen, (time frame eludes me) which was inspired by the rush of super heroes being brought to the big screen. The bat is such a primordial animal for the psyche, I thought it would be fun to disguise it, surround it with semi prehistoric design.”


Pinup, ca. 2012
Santa Clara clay, acrylic paint, India ink, wood stain, leather
Charles King, photographer. (Photograph courtesy of Charles King)

“The pinup canteen was also fun to work on as the shape is much more formal with sharp ’edges‘ as opposed to the softer/rounder bat canteen. I didn’t have the design set in stone when I made the canteen. So, when I ran across a vintage ad, somehow the sultry supple image of this woman struck me as being a complementary image to the shape.”


Hopi Women, after E.S. Curtis, 2014
Santa Clara clay, acrylic paint, India ink, wood stain
Charles King, photographer. (Photograph courtesy of Charles King)

“The canteen of the Hopi women was inspired by a 2014 Edward Curtis show at the ASM. Artists were asked to reflect on their thoughts of Curtis and his influence, pros or cons. The canteen was not featured in the exhibit but was inspired by one of Curtis’ well known photographs, looking out on the horizon and seeing the many ’Fred Harvey‘ tourists from the perspective of the Native women.”

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