Pottery is an essential part of the lives of the Hopi Indians in the Arizona region. They have dwelled in this region from about 1100 A.D and have created some excellent pottery since then. Although the same artistic techniques have been renewed in each pottery, the styles have changed within the years.
In 450 A.D, the Moki, the Hopi word for the peaceful ones, developed the first attempts of pottery after meeting the Mogollon Indians. Thick-walled, gray, undecorated pottery began to appear within the Hopi community around 400 A.D to 700 A.D. Kana-a and Second Mesa were black on white pottery styles that emerged during the time period of 700 A.D to 1000 A.D. These consisted of geometric shapes, such as triangles, lines, bands, and scrolls. Soon three and four color polychrome pottery began to develop during the 1300s. The most praised era of the Hopi pottery is called the Sikyatki Polychrome; the following forms were the Payupki, Polacca, and San Bernardo polychrome styles. These consisted of black on red, black and red on white, red, and black on orange colors. Although colors of the pottery have changed, the shapes of these vessels have not evolved. Bowls, jars, are the two typical shapes of Hopi pottery. Others include vases, canteens, pitchers, plates, seed jars, and effigies. There are three basic forms also: equal width and height, tall and narrow, and short and wide. Most Hopi pottery have rims that are curved inward and are typically shallow. The circumference of the midpoint of the sides of the pottery is usually the largest. In history, it was the job of the Hopi women to make the pottery. It was seen as unmanly to work with clay to create bowls and jars. However, now in Hopi communities, men are also potters. The size of the pottery now are smaller than pottery of long ago. Pottery, the only artifacts left to tell the tale of the lives of the Hopi Indians of long ago also reflect the changes of society.
Hopi pottery has always been constructed with the coiling method. The Native Americans gather clay from their sacred tribal land and then sift and clean the clay. Along with temper, a thickening material that can be anything from sand to quartz to prevent the pottery from shrinking while being fired, and water, the clay is mixed and constructed into a beautiful shape. The clay is taken, bit by bit, and rolled into a sausage. Layer by layer, they are stacked, blended with the previous layer and slowly the pottery takes its shape. After the pot has taken its shape, a slip, find sand or clay mixture, is applied to the surface of the pottery. After it has been polished and perfected, it is fired. There are two ways of firing pottery: oxidizing or reducing. While the pottery is being oxidized, oxygen gets to the pottery. In the reduction method, the vessel is completely covered with broken pieces of old pottery and dung. After the pottery has been fired in the outdoor ovens for approximately four hours, it is then decorated. Black paint for the vessels are made from boiling Beeweed for a very long time until it is sufficiently thick and dark. Afterwards, it is dried as little cakes and wrapped in cornhusk for later usage; these are called guaco. The other colors are extracted from plants found on their territory. Geometric shapes and naturalistic drawings are delicately drawn on the surface and inside the pottery. After the paint has dried, a masterpiece has been completed.
The symbols designed on the art pieces represent various things within their Hopi community. The star represents the sipapu, which means the place of origin. Each design used represents something also. A whole pottery design could symbolize something also. The usage of the colors represent the continuity of their tradition within the Hopi community. Certain designs also represent the emancipation of the artists spirit.
Hopi pottery is an essential part of the history of these Native Americans. These artifacts also provide vast amount of information about the past and how life was for the Native Americans of the United States.