Authentic Acoma pots are made from local,
slate-like clays. When traditionally fired, these clays produce a very
white vessel. After they are fired, these clays also are strong enough
to allow the production of very thin walls. Traditionally, the Acomas
use both mineral and vegetal based paints for their designs. The
characteristic white backgrounds allow the Acoma potters to produce
crisp black images, as well as rich polychrome designs.
From a design standpoint, the Acoma potters
frequently use rainbows, parrots, geometrics, and other historic and
prehistoric motifs. Also, they frequently use patterns inspired by
prehistoric Mimbres designs. A number of anthropologists believe that
the Acoma and Laguna people are remnants of the prehistoric Mimbres
people who migrated up from the Silver City, New Mexico area; hence this
group's interest in the Mimbres.
Some of the more famous Acoma potters come
from the Lewis, Chino, Cerno, Torivio, Aragon, Garcia, Antonio, Concho,
Vallo, and Sandoval families.
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To order, call 1-800-401-1192, or 1-520-529-5545 if
you are out of the United States, or go to our
For an enlarged view of any picture, simply click on it.
- All sizes are approximate.
Wilfred is one of the Pueblo artists who has developed his own,
unique style; making unpainted, sculptured pottery. His is a blending of
traditional and contemporary designs. He credits the late Stella Shutiva,
who became well known for her white, corrugated pinch-pot pottery.
Wilfred began making pottery in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s,
Wilfred quite his job as a police officer, and began to pot full-time.
As you might suspect, Wilfred is a big man. It is amazing to watch his
big hands work in such fine detail as shown in his work. He has received
numerous awards as one of the top artists in the Southwest, and has been
featured in books and exhibits across the country.
Item# P810 - Wilfred Garcia, Acoma
is a style that Wilfred calls his Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings jar. The
idea came to him when visited the national park. The cliff dwellings are
around the neck, kiva steps are on the top rim, and the kiva ladder
comes out the top. About the ladder, Wilfred's wife reports that he was
ruining her peach tree trying to perfect this idea; so she made him buy
the dowels from the lumber yard. We are showing a close-up of the
detail, click on the close-up image for a larger image.
Size: 10 3/4" high by 7 3/4" diameter.
Item# P809 - Wilfred Garcia, Acoma
is a smaller version of the corn seed jar, above. It has the
characteristic imagination of the corn ear central theme, with the rain
clouds and the lightening bolts on the sides of the corn leaves.
Size: 6 3/4 high by 7 3/4" diameter.
Item# P812 - Wilfred Garcia, Acoma
Graceful. Elegant. This is our description of Wilfred's wedding vase.
Kiva steps are designed into each of the top rims. Around the center is
a chased border of three rows. Imagine this as a gift, or for yourself.
Size: 12 3/4" high by 7 3/4" diameter.
Item# P517 -Melissa Antonio, Acoma.
Melissa Antonio, from a recognized Acoma family, specializes in designs
which use simple geometric figures arranged into exceedingly complex
designs. Here is one of her pieces where she uses a design made up of
simple black and white squares of exquisite detail. (Click
here for a close-up, approximately actual size.) Melissa uses
traditional methods of making her pottery, digs the clay herself, coils
and smoothes the pot, makes her own paints, paints the designs with a
yucca brush, however, she does fire in a commercial type kiln. You'd
think that she used some sort of geometric machine, her patterns are so
precise. However, she just "eyeballs" the design, draws the horizontal
lines and then the vertical lines and creates the patterns by filling in
appropriate squares. Some call this pattern a cross-word puzzle design;
if so, it would be a big puzzle. Be sure to click on this image to see
an enlarged graphic of this intricate design. She uses the term "olla"
to describe this shape. A term picked up from the Spanish, olla means a
water container. These shapes are patterned after the ollas used by the
Acoma women in past centuries to carry water to their dwellings on the
top of the mesa at Acoma. Many Acoma ollas will have a slightly concave
bottom, which gave the container better balance when carried atop their
Size: 8" high by 10" diameter.
Item# P536-Melissa Antonio, Acoma.
this seed bowl, Melissa has embellished the top and one side with
turtles, a symbol of water and good luck. Seed bowls are a tradition
dating back to prehistoric times, when the farmers stored their precious
seed in a rodent-proof ceramic bowl. The openings were very small, just
large enough to allow a seed to pass through. After filling, the opening
was then sealed with mud, which dried and became hard and impenetrable
Size: 5 3/4" high by 7 3/8" diameter.
Item# P566 - Debbie Brown, Acoma.
Debbie has taken several classic Acoma elements and designed this Acoma olla,
or water jar. The parrot design originated with the Mimbres, a
prehistoric group who anthropologists trace to the present-day Acomas.
She has added the yucca flower and the rainbow.
Size: 8 3/4" high by 9" diameter.
Item# P783-Debbie Brown, Acoma.
In this olla, Debbie has let her imagination go. She has included
several cloud symbols, and features a butterfly among flowers. The
pattern is repeated in all quadrants. The idea of sun-moon-stars, clouds
is the circular motif, and again repeated in all quadrants.
Size: 6 1/2" high by 6 3/4" diameter.
Item# P307-Tina Garcia, Acoma.
is a small, gem of an Acoma jar. Made by Tina Garcia, who still lives
and pots at the Pueblo. She has been making pottery for the past 40
years. Tina signs her pots with her name, followed by "Lady Clay." She
digs her own clay, makes her paints from local sources, and hand coils
Size: 5" high by 5 3/4" diameter.
The "Other" Lewis Family
A note about the following group of potters from the
"Other" Lewis Family--
These sisters from the "Other" Lewis family are among the best
and most productive of the present generation living in Acoma. Oddly
enough, this Lewis family is unrelated to the Lucy Lewis family,
although they do live in Acoma.
Carolyn Concho, Rebecca Lucario, Judy Lewis, Sharon Lewis,
Marilyn Henderson and Diane Lewis.
We know they are very popular, since we get a steady stream of orders
for their work. Enjoy!
Item# P814 -Carolyn Concho, Acoma.
has used prehistoric Mimbres designs for the small canteen, a rabbit on
one side, a turtle on the other. Some believe that a portion of the
prehistoric Mimbres people migrated to the Acoma Pueblo. Acoma potters
have used Mimbres designs in their historic and their contemporary
Size: 2 1/4" high by 3 1/2" diameter.
Item# P946 -Diane Lewis, Acoma.
Diane has executed her complex black on white geometric designs over
the top half of this seed bowl. She has designed a classic Mimbres
butterfly on the lower segment. The lower half of this piece is polished
Size: 1 1/2" high by 3" diameter.
Item# P945 -Diane Lewis, Acoma.
Diane uses a Mimbres decorated parrot and a big flower for the center piece here. She
has surrounded the center with some of her famous polychrome geometrics.
Size: 1 1/2" high by 3" diameter.
Item# P879 -Diane Lewis, Acoma.
Here, Diane has painted a Mimbres big horn sheep and a quail as the
feature. She has used three of the quarter sections for her geometric
designs. The lower half of this piece is polished white. To see a side
view, click here.
Size: 1" high by 2 1/2" diameter.
Item# P880 -Diane Lewis, Acoma.
Kokopelli plays his magical flute in the center piece of this seed
jar. He is surrounded by intricate color geometrics. The lower half of
this piece is polished white.
Size: 1" high by 2 1/2" diameter.
Item# P813 -Marie S. Juanico, Acoma.
Marie lives in the Pueblo area. She is a well-known Acoma potter. Now
in her late 60s, she has tapered off the big pieces of pottery she
once made. However, she still gathers her own clay, and the minerals
that she uses to paint the patterns. This is a nice piece by a
well-known potter. Both the Acomas and the Zunis make these effigy
owls. Anthropologists believe that this idea may have come from the
Mimbres, prehistoric Indians who lived in the southwestern corner of
Size: 6" high by 4 1/2" diameter.
Item# P885-Sandra Victorino, Acoma.
uses the bird-wings flight design around the top, and the star and
day/night design around the lower portion. Notice how the shapes spiral
from the base to the top of this jar, and how they expand and contract
to follow the contour of the jar. With the amount of fine line-work,
this piece took Sandra a long-long time to finish.
Size: 4 3/8" high by 4" diameter.
Item# P886-Sandra Victorino, Acoma.
Bird-wings flight designs are around the upper portion, day/night
designs are the lower designs in this graceful vase.
Size: 3 3/8" high by 3 3/4" diameter.
Item# P815 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
and Barbara Cerno are known for their polychrome artistry. For their
central theme, they has chosen the classic Acoma parrot and double
rainbow motifs, a design that has metamorphosed from the pre-historic
Mimbres, to the 19th century historic, to the contemporary. They have
done an extensive amount of decoration on this jar. Not only are the
parrot an rainbow repeated on each side, but other artistry includes a
rooster, and desert flowers including the yucca flower, sun flower and
daisy. Usually the Cernos make large pieces, by large we mean 24" to
30" in diameter. This represents one of their smaller ollas. (Olla
is Spanish for water container, pronounced oy-yah.) Along with the Chino
and Lewis families, the Cernos are recognized as premier Acoma potters.
The Cernos use local clay, and form, paint and fire all their pottery
using traditional methods. This is an exquisite, heavily decorated Cerno
Size: 6 1/4" high by 8 1/4" diameter.
Item# P600 - Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
or clowns, are prevalent in most Pueblo ceremonies. Here, Barbara, a
Hopi and familiar with kachinas, has given Joseph the idea, and he took
it and ran. He says that once in a while, you just have to let your
imagination go. The design is repeated on each half.
Size: 6 1/2" high by 7 1/2" diameter.
Item# P603 - Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
one, Joseph call his Cascabel Spiral Bowl. The Bowl is Mimbres in
origin. Traditionally, he explains, for a very important instance, the
people prayed to their gods, and then set a Spirit Bowl outside their
dwelling that night. This would gain them additional favor, food and
water for their patrons. The bowl in the center was filled with food.
The rim encircling the bowl was actually a hollow tube, filled with
water. Again, he credits the idea form studying at the "School of
American Research" in Santa Fe. He created the rattlesnake (cascabel)
Size: 4 3/4" max height by 9" diameter. Rim is 2 1/8" high.
Item# P397 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
and Barbara have spent a many hours studying historic Acoma pottery in
the School of American Research, Santa Fe. This jar is the result of one
of their research projects, a decorated water jar. (At the bottom of the
Acoma mesa is a spring. Historically, the women used jars to haul water
to the top of the mesa, carrying the jars on their heads. To facilitate
balance, the old jars had a concave bottom to better fit the jar to
their head; and so does this jar have that indentation.) Focus of the
design is a representation of a Mimbres-style bird on a flower stem. The
bird design appears on all four quadrants, opposing sides first have the
bird on the top rim, and then opposing on the lower sides.
Size: 11" high by 13" diameter.
Item# P241 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
and Barbara Cerno have drawn upon their knowledge of classic Mimbres
designs, and have gone one giant step forward with this piece. The
historical roots of this piece came from their study at the School of
American Research, Santa Fe. They have transitioned to an interesting
adaptation. Would you call it contemporized traditional?
Joseph Cerno explains the design: "I call this my
'germination pot.' To me, I tried to show the renewal of life,
represented by the pumpkin and squash seed, image left, growing to
flowers after receiving the gift of life from rain, represented by the
rainbow (image right)." This is a superb jar that will add to any
collector's display. (Click on either image to see an enlarged view.)
Size: 10" high by 11 1/2" diameter.
Note: We are continuing to show this piece by the
Cernos, because Barbara told us that they could make another piece with
the germination pattern. The piece could be larger, but not smaller,
because of the complexity of the pattern. It would take eight to ten
weeks for the order to be completed. Please give us a call, if your are
We regret to say that Dorothy passed away during the fall of 2011. We are
leaving this information on our site as a memorial to her work.
began full-time potting in the mid-1970s. By the early 1980s, she
was recognized as an accomplished Acoma potter. Today, she is
probably the most recognized contemporary Acoma potter. In
1998, she was one of several Native American, women potters featured
in an exhibit, "The Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American
Indian Women," organized by the National Museum of Women in the
Arts. This exhibition toured the United States for two years. She
again was featured in a book of the same name, which showed the
artists and their pieces in this exhibition. Dorothy was under the
banner of "The Avant-garde."
As a child, she recalls being fascinated by her mother's pottery
making, Mary Antonio Valley. This was her start, but she credits her
mother-in-law, Lolita Torivio Concho, with giving her artistic
direction. "My dad worked for the Santa Fe Railroad which runs next
to the northern border of the Acoma reservation. When I was a young
girl, he was transferred to California, where I went through school.
During the summers, my mother and I went back to the reservation. It
was then, as a teenager, that I started selling my mother's and
grandmother's pottery on the roadside of old Route 66. Money from
tourists help sustain us."
"In the mid-seventies, I found myself a single mother with three
kids. I started selling my pottery on the portico of the Governor's
Palace on the Santa Fe square. Then, my pots were patterned with
Mimbres designs. One day, bored, I thought that I would try to
develop a new, unique design using geometric patterns that repeat
over and over."
"I refined this idea, and now I create a geometric design, and
then repeat that design in a continuous circle or spiral, with the
same number of repetitions, regardless of the circumference of the
piece I am working. My patterns grow larger or smaller, according to
the circumference, but always with the same number of repetitions."
The very precise patterns can become exquisitely complex, which
has led some to believe she must use a computer, or some
mathematical engine; but no, the designs are all hand drawn and
executed with a traditional yucca brush, using traditional pigments.
Her shapes are often called vases, but she explains them as
exaggerated seed bowls. She is noted for executing pieces with very
thin walls, enabled by the strong local clay. Pick up one of her
pieces and you'll notice how light in weight they are. Her painting
is also noted for it smooth, even coloration.
PS: Dorothy is now exhibiting in the most exclusive Native
American art galleries, not the portico of the Governor's Palace.
Item# P837 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
Here is Dorothy's "Four Directions Pattern." The center of this design
is a four-pointed star with a cross. Again, the pattern is one of
Dorothy's classic, and expands and contracts in perfect geometry as the
shape of the jar changes in diameter. Her skill in designs and painting
become more apparent as her pieces become smaller.
Size: 4" high by 6" diameter.
Item# P533 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
of her larger pieces, this is a true gem. Dorothy's idea for this design
came from a pottery shard she found on the Acoma reservation.
Originally, she says, it was a series of simple squares, half white,
half black, so she called this idea the "Day and Night" pattern. In this
interpretation, the square has become a rectangle, actually a
parallelogram, and executed in one of her famous spirals. Her trademark
is executing the same number of geometric shapes, regardless of the
variance in circumference. To see how the number of spirals shrink in
size, we have shown a close-up of the neck of this vase,
Size: 7" high by 81/2" diameter.
Item# P818 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
of her larger pieces, this "Yucca Leaf Pattern" seed jar is a true gem.
Dorothy's idea for this design came from a humble yucca leaf, executed
in a series of opposing spirals. Almost an optical illusion, the yucca
leaves form a background pattern of a star. Her trademark is executing
the same number of geometric shapes, regardless of the variance in
circumference. This is a great example, with the geometric design
remaining the same from the bottom, to the middle, to the top.
Size: 5 1/4" high by 81/2" diameter.
Item# P838 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
Dorothy is constantly changing her geometry. She calls this patter her
Butterfly Pattern. As with her other complex patterns, this one ebbs and
flows with the circumference of the piece. Dorothy says she likes to
look at nature and turn her focus upon translating her image to a
geometric design--stars, yuccas, butterflies.
Size: 4 1/2" high by 7" diameter.
Item# P677 -Judy Lewis, Acoma.
Storyteller grandmother with three grandchildren (two boys, and a girl
with braids), one cat, a butterfly, two ladybugs, and a gecko.
Size: 5 1/4" high.
More About Acoma Pueblo
Acoma is often called the "Sky City," because
of its location atop a mesa in Western New Mexico. The people are
closely related to the Laguna Pueblo people; they speak the same
language and are adjoining neighbors. According to anthropology
scholars, both the Acomas and Lagunas have myths that trace their
heritage to the Anasazi people of the Four-Corners area and the Mesa
Verde region in Colorado.
The Acoma village was already well established
by the time of the invasion by Coronado and the "Spanish Entrada," ca.
1540. The village remained in a backwash of the Spanish "conquest" until
it was brutally brought into the Spanish mainstream in 1599. It since
has been inexorably tied to the history of the State of New Mexico.
Of some interest to collectors is the effect
its location has had upon the pottery styles of the Acomas. We have
referenced that the prehistoric Anasazi groups were in the Four-Corners
area, to the north of Acoma. To the south were the Mimbres who lived in
the mountains above Silver City, NM. Some archaeologists maintain that
the two cultures met and mixed in the Acoma area—the Anasazi from the
north and the Mimbres from the south. Their reasoning goes that this is
the why some of the Acoma pottery picks up the Mimbres designs.
Notwithstanding, the modern Acoma potters have certainly added many
Mimbres elements to their designs.
A Caution—Some Acoma potters are resorting to
a speed-up of traditional methods, and use store-bought clays,
slip-casting with plaster of paris molds to form the shapes, and
electric kilns. We are careful not to buy work made with these
"modern innovations." To avoid this ware, we buy only from known Acoma
potters who use the traditional methods.
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- Recommended reading - Check Amazon.com. They stock most of
- Acoma & Laguna Pottery by Rick Dillingham, School of
American Research Press, $35.00 (paper);
- Southern Pueblo Pottery, 2,000 Artist Biographies
by Gregory Schaaf, CIAC Press, $110 (hard back);
- Southwestern Pottery, Anasazi to Zuni by Allan Hayes,
John Blom, Northland Publishing, $21.95 (paper);
- Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery, by Rick Dillingham,
University of New Mexico Press, $37.50 (paper);
- Hopi Pottery Symbols by Alex Patterson, Johnson Books,
- Nampeyo and her Legacy by Barbara Kramer, University of
New Mexico Press, $39.95 (cloth);
- Talking with the Clay, by Stephen Trimble, $15.95
- Pueblo Storyteller by Barbara A. Babcock, $25.95 (paper);
- Generations In Clay, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred
Plog, Northland Press;
- Living Tradition of Maria Martinez by Susan Peterson,