About Pottery Creation
" There are probably countless reasons why pueblo pottery is so appealing to the eye, so valuable. Chief among them, however, are the tremendous artistry and patient effort that go into making a piece—techniques that, in part, trace back to those used in creating the crude, undecorated pottery that appeared in the Rio Grande valley around 700 AD. Pottery then was utilitarian, providing for food storage and preparation, water transportation and the like. It was not until the late 1800s that Indians began producing pottery for tourists and collectors. And from the 1950s to the present there has been rapidly escalating appreciation of and encouragement given to continuing the traditions, elevating the craft, and developing innovative aesthetic expressions using age-old materials and techniques. Fine craftsmanship at each stage The construction of fine pottery is time-consuming and care is necessary at each step--each piece is unique and pitfalls abound. Let's look at the creation of a San Ildefonso black-on-black pot as an example. Preparation First large lumps of dry clay are pried with pick or file from the quarry, taken home and laid out in the sun to dry for a couple of days. Evenly dried clay is put into a vessel with enough water to cover and soak it for two to four days. After several rinsings and then mixing, the solution is passed though a sieve to remove pebbles and other impurities, yielding a milkshake-like material. This is allowed to ""set up"" for several days. Before the modeling can begin, a filler or tempering agent made of volcanic tuff, is laboriously mixed with the clay. This helps counteract shrinkage and facilitates drying, thus lessening the likelihood of cracking. Modeling The potter takes a lump of clay about the size of a fist and pats it into the shape of a cone, forming the base. Using a shaping spoon or kajape usually made from a gourd, the potter scrapes and thins the clay. Continually turning and working with the wet kajape readies the base upon which rolls or coils of clay are then built up to roughly form the vessel. Continual moistening, rubbing, and turning gradually smooths and thins the walls and refines the shape. After curing for a few days, additional scraping further thins and evens the walls. "
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