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Native American Pottery Designs & Styles
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Native American Pottery Designs & Styles

Native American Indian pottery reflects the richness and cultural diversity of the Southwestern pueblo peoples. The varied styles and designs of Pueblo pottery results from the different chemical compositions in the clays mined by each Pueblo, cultural beliefs and, of course, the artists’ imaginations and abilities.

Palms Trading Company View collection of genuine Native American pottery

Contact Palms Trading Company today at (800) 748-1656

A Quick Guide to Tribal Pottery Design Distinctions

Each Pueblo’s pottery has unique characteristics, but it can be difficult to remember the right Pueblo-trademark associations. Here’s a quick guide to help you recognize pottery from the different Southwestern Pueblo traditions:

Native American Indian Pueblo or Tribe

Characteristic Pottery Styles

Common Designs and Patterns

Additional Information


Off-white unfinished pottery typically painted with black and terra cotta
  • Fine lines create geometric patterns
  • Parrot
Pottery “rings” when lightly tapped


Buff-colored unfinished pottery typically painted black and red
  • Migration
  • Eagle
  • Butterfly Maiden
Many modern potters are descendants of Nampeyo or Frog Woman, believed to be the first potter to create pottery as commercially-profitable art


  • Buff-colored or red unfinished pottery, often with red slip
  • Designs are painted in black or etched into piece
  • Geometric patterns
Pottery has glossy sheen from traditional stone polishing


White pottery painted in black and terra cotta, although palette does include light blues
  • Fine lines create geometric patterns, commonly forming large floral design
Pottery is similar to Acoma Pueblo because of geographic and cultural relationship


  • Terra cotta-colored clay painted in graduated color bands with etched or painted designs
  • Buff-colored clay painted with black, terra cotta and sky blues
  • Clay polished with pine pitch to create dark brown or red mahogany-wood appearance
  • Kokopelli
  • Yei (supernatural beings)
  • Horse hair (ceramic)
The Navajo Indian tribe is known for cultural assimilation—borrowing and making their own the practices of neighboring Pueblos. Their pottery styles reflect the influence of other pottery traditions.

San Ildefonso

Black (matte) on black
  • Replicated or modified prehistoric motifs
  • Avanyu, the water serpent
Maria and Julian Martinez developed the black-on-black technique that put Native American Indian pottery “on the map”

Santa Clara

Red and black slip pottery with etched or carved designs, many with fluted or polygonal-shaped rims
  • Avanyu, the water serpent
  • Hummingbirds
  • Dragonflies
  • Floral patterns
Santa Clara Pueblo neighbors San Ildefonso Pueblo, and the similarity is evident between these two traditions

Santo Domingo

  • Buff-colored clay painted with black and terra cotta
  • Egg white finish gives glossy sheen
  • Animal designs
  • Geometric patterns
Paints are all naturally and nearly invisible until fired


Red or white slip on red painted with black and terra cotta
  • Sky band
  • Zia sun symbol
  • Zia bird
  • Geometric patterns
Zia Pueblo artists Marcellus and Elizabeth Medina designed the New Mexico Bowl trophy


White and red slips painted with black and red
  • Lizards
  • “Heartline” deer
  • Frogs and tadpoles
  • Zigzag
Common motifs suggest the importance of water to Zuni Pueblo life

Mata Ortiz

White or colored slips painted with black and vibrant colors
  • Macaw
  • Geometric patterns
  • Animal designs
Mata Ortiz artists are not Native American Indians but villagers of Mata Ortiz, Mexico

Find All Native American Indian Pottery Designs at Palms Trading Company

Palms Trading Company carries pottery by artists from the Pueblos and tribes of the Southwest. We buy each piece directly from the artist, so we guarantee is it authentic—handmade using traditional materials and techniques.

If you would like more information on any of the pottery styles and designs, please contact us. Our knowledgeable staff will be happy to share their expertise with you to help you more fully enjoy the benefits of owning Native American Indian pottery.

If one particular style or design strikes your fancy and you’d like to see more than what you find in our online selection, our personal shopper service can help you explore our entire in-store collection.

Contact Palms Trading Company today

for authentic Native American Indian Art

Please call us at

(800) 748-1656 or (505) 247-8504