Many tribes continue to practice traditional arts, including jewelry, basketry, pottery, and weaving. When buying Native American art, it’s best to shop directly with the artists for the highest quality and authenticity.
Pueblo people are well known for their beautifully adorned pottery, but they also excel at beadwork, stone fetishes, and Katsina dolls. This art reflects the Pueblo way of life and spiritual beliefs.
Feathers and birds hold a unique place in Indigenous cultures throughout the Southwest. They represent vital aspects of the natural environment and play a central role in creation myths and rain dances. Several bird-themed ceramics in the collection of Art Properties demonstrate these crucial connections between humans and the environment.
When exploring indigenous artistry in the Southwest, travelers often seek out Pueblo crafts, embracing the rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship embedded within these traditional creations.
The thunderbird is a powerful symbol of strength, fertility, and abundance in the Pueblo world. Artists are known for reviving this design in the 1930s, using repurposed materials to make colorful necklaces with a thunderbird motif. This design is still celebrated among Santo Domingo artists and collectors of Native American jewelry.
As Indigenous peoples shifted from an agrarian lifestyle to sedentary settlements, pottery became essential to their daily lives. Pottery could carry and store water, a precious resource in their scorching, dry climate. The clay-making process itself was also a ritual. The works in the collection of Art Properties feature designs from various pueblos, including Tewa pottery.
Like pottery, baskets were practical but also crucial for ceremonies. Artists create coiled baskets from yucca, rabbit bru, sh, and wild currant, while the Pima Indians of Arizona use willow, squaw weed, devil’s cl, aw, and tule roots to make wicker baskets. From the heishi beads (made with primitive stone drills) that the Collections team found in Isabella’s trunk to intricate beadwork and ribbon dresses worn by dancers today, Native American art has a long history.
The Dine people of the Navajo Nation are best known for their jewelry and silver works, but they were also early Pueblo painters. The Museum’s collection includes a watercolor by Velarde, which depicts a woman grinding corn on a metate, along with her children and a ram. This scene is a nod to the people who lived in the Jemez Mountains where Velarde worked—and whose age-old crafts, lifeways, and traditions she chronicled.
Pottery remains an important artisan craft in every pueblo. Clay potters dig their clay from natural deposits near their villages and often walk long distances to reach the best sources. This can be a very tiring process as the soil is quite sandy.
Ancestral Pueblo potters created their pottery using a coiling and scraping technique. A thin rope of clay, or coil, was coiled into the pot’s base, and then additional coils were added as the vessel took shape. Once the desired pot was formed, it was scraped smooth and decorated with pigments from boiled plants or crushed rock with iron. Paint brushes were usually made from the fibers of yucca plants.
Most potters today use more modern techniques to make their pottery, but some still follow the original ancestral Pueblo traditions. These artists create the most authentic Pueblo pottery you can find anywhere. These pieces are perfect for those who want to add an authentic Native American accent to their homes. They look great with wood furniture and in rustic rooms.
Railroads brought tourists to Northern New Mexico and introduced a new Pueblo arts and crafts market. Many local artisans seized the opportunity, and their products became known worldwide.
Those working in clay and pottery still make pieces that carry traditional designs and stories. Prehistoric pots often feature geometric motifs; historic ones include animal and nature motifs with spiritual significance. Oranges, blacks, browns, and whites are common color choices.
Cruz travels to public lands to dig, clean, and age clay, looking for the type containing sparkling mica flecks. He then builds and decorates his pottery by hand, without a potter’s wheel or other tools, and then fires it outdoors in the open air rather than in a kiln. Textile artists also work to keep traditions alive. Their embroidered cloths are worn in ceremonial contexts, but they are also innovative, secular textiles that use modern forms and designs.