Traditional Navajo pottery has changed much over the centuries. At one time they made not only very large storage jars, but also painted pottery. Then, sometime in the 1800s, the hataathli or Medicine Men decreed, for whatever reason, that painted pottery was off limits - too dangerous to make. Plainware then dominated. Most were coated with pinyon pitch to make them waterproof. Cooking pots, drums and serving bowls were made. It was disappearing by the late 1940s, with only one family making much pottery. It was revived in the 1950s largely to the efforts of Bill Beaver, a trader fluent in Navajo, who liked the pottery and worked closely with the potters. Modern Navajo pottery ranges from traditional items to folk art with after-fire acrylic paint to highly polished, beautifully proportioned art pottery by potters like Alice Cling, Elizabeth Manygoats (famous for her horned lizard-adorned vessels), Sue Williams, and Samuel Manymules as well as Lucy McKelvey, Lorraine Williams and Christine Nofchissey McHorse.


Navajo pottery matriarch Rose Williams made the vessel at right, $160 (SOLD), while her daughter-in-law, Lorraine Williams created the other. SOLD Both are 9 inches high.

The form here once had two purposes: a cooking pot, with a pointed bottom so you could nestle it deep in the coals and as a drum pot. They are still used as drum pots on occasion, but they are not often made anymore, This one measures 8 inches high and is SOLD Beautiful polish and NOT coated with pinon pitch.


This vesssel by Alice Cling was collected by the late Bill Beaver who played an important role in the revival/survival o tradtional Navajo pottery. 6 inches tall, it bears Bill's note as to when it was collected and the fact that it was only the second vessel she made using hematite and even sourcing it. A collector's item. $800. (Tucson)