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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- 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
This 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
This 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
Simple. 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 heads.
Size: 8" high by 10" diameter.
Item# P536-Melissa Antonio, Acoma.
On 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 by rodents.
Size: 5 3/4" high by 7 3/8" diameter.
Price: $1,200 SOLD.
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.
This 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 her jars.
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.
Carolyn 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 pottery.
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 white.
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.
Price: $165 SOLD.
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 New Mexico.
Size: 6" high by 4 1/2" diameter.
Price: $255 SOLD.
Item# P885-Sandra Victorino, Acoma.
Sandra 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.
Price: $390 SOLD.
Item# P886-Sandra Victorino, Acoma.
Item# P815 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
Joseph 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 olla.
Size: 6 1/4" high by 8 1/4" diameter.
Price: $3,750 SOLD.
Item# P600 - Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
Mudheads, 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.
This 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) motif.
Size: 4 3/4" max height by 9" diameter. Rim is 2 1/8" high.
Item# P397 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
Joseph 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.
Price: $2,850 SOLD.
Item# P241 -Joseph & Barbara Cerno, Acoma.
Joseph 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 interested.
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.
Dorothy 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.
Price: $2,000 SOLD.
Item# P533 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
One 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, click here.
Size: 7" high by 81/2" diameter.
Price: $3,800 SOLD.
Item# P818 - Dorothy Torivio, Acoma
One 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.
Price: 3,600 SOLD.
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.
Price: 2,400 SOLD.
Item# P677 -Judy Lewis, Acoma.
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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.