Navajo Indians borrowed largely from neighboring Pueblos, assimilating their cultural practices into the Navajo way of life. From the Pueblo people, the Navajo Indian tribe learned the art of pottery making.
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Navajo Horsehair Pottery
The Navajo Indian tribe is relatively new to the Southwest compared to other Pueblo cultures. The Navajo Nation is descended from peoples originally from the plains of modern-day Canada. These hunters and gatherers settled in the Southwest about 150 years before the Spanish.
More than any other Native American pottery making tradition, the Navajo Indian tribe is known for horse hair pottery which was borrowed from the Acoma Pueblo. By placing individual strands of horse hair from the mane or tail onto red-hot pieces, artists create dark veins that may either serve as the sole decoration or as a backdrop for another etched or painted design. A similar process is also used with feathers.
The Navajo Indian tribe are the only pottery makers to use pine pitches for finishes, giving the finished piece a dark red or brown hue and glossy sheen resembling mahogany.
The Distinctive Style of Diné/Navajo Indian Pottery
For having learned pottery art from neighboring Pueblos, Navajo Indian artists have developed a very distinctive pottery style.
Artists of the Navajo Indian tribe have all but neglected the monochromatic designs so popular in Acoma and Laguna Pueblo pottery. Instead, Navajo Indian pottery employs a varied palette that includes vivid greens and blues that “pop” against natural terra cotta-colored clay.
Many Navajo (Diné) Indian vessels have color bands that wrap around the width of the piece and graduate into new hues along the color spectrum as your eyes move vertically. Within these bands is often etching of a feathers or other geometric patterns.
Figures and symbols commonly depicted on pottery from the Navajo Indian tribe are the kokopelli and Yei, supernatural beings, some of whom are associated with forces of nature.
Renowned Artists of the Navajo Indian Tribe
Although Navajo Indian pottery artists often create very intricate and highly decorated pottery, one of the most prominent Navajo artists, Alice Cling, creates very simple, yet very elegant pieces.
Cling uses the traditional pine pitch and fires her pieces outdoors. The combination of the clay, the temperature and the ash that falls onto the piece while firing and the temperature lead to “blushing”—natural color ranging from rich red to purplish brown to black.
Navajo Indian Pottery and the Southwestern Style
As one of the largest Native American nations, the art of the Navajos largely defines the Southwestern style. You can accent your home décor with a Southwestern flare with Native American pottery from Palms Trading Company.
Palms Trading Company carries a fine selection of pottery from the Navajo Indians and many other Southwestern Pueblo nations. We buy directly from the artists, so every piece we carry is guaranteed authentic. To explore our larger offline collection, contact us to start using our personal shopper service.