Symbols of the Hopi Pottery

Powerful Essays
Symbols of the Hopi Pottery

When most people look at a piece of pottery the first thing that comes to mind is the significance of the symbols and the stories behind these symbols. There are some symbols of Hopi pottery that have stories behind them and some that are symbols of either lost significance or the story is unknown. Some of the symbols we think of as symbols, are really the potters own design. Most people make the mistake that symbols and designs are the same thing, but in fact they are very different. Hopi potters, mostly women, have been instrumental in both preserving and developing traditional symbols and innovating designs in response to changes in and challenges to their culture.

In the beginning, symbolism was used for a means of communication. The reason for this was because during this time most Native American’s were Illiterate. Instead of using letter’s in the alphabet, as we do today , they used pictures (Douglas 42). This came to become what we call symbolism.

With a piece of pottery to paint, the Hopi potter uses his/hers artistic ability to produce a design that is very pleasing to the eye. Most of these designs are not intended to be symbols. But when the “white man” see’s this design he immediately thinks it is symbolism. The Indian thinks that if he tells the “white man” that this is just a design he will not believe him, so instead he makes up a story. This helps the Indian market his product as well as avoid confusion on the meaning of the pottery by the “white man” (“Museum Notes: An Introduction”1).

When the potter is getting ready to start the painting process he /she already knows the design that is going to be painted on the piece. The Hopi potters do not draw ...

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...nner. “Syvia Naha: Hopi Potter.” Tanner Chaney Gallery. (25 March 1999).

Douglas, Frederic. “Symbolism in Indian Art and the Difficulties of its Interpretation.” Denver: Denver Art Museum,1934.

Duwyenie, Carol. “The Artists: Carol Duwyenie.” Carol Duwyenie.

Guthe, Carl. Pueblo Pottery Making: A study at the Village of San Ildefonso. Massachusetts: Yale University Press, 1925.

“Museum Notes: An Introduction to Hopi Pottery Design.” Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, Inc., July 1937.

Patterson, Alex. Hopi Pottery Symbols. Boulder: Johnson Printing Company,1994.

University of Dallas. “Five Generations of Native American Pueblo Works.” University of Dallas Upstairs Haggar. (31 March 1999).
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