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 the designs on the pots or trace it from a piece of paper. They do not sketch it will a pencil, it is all free hand. The potter does not look at the design or shape of piece of pottery until the complete piece is finished. Once the pot is finished, the potter looks at it and if there is something wrong with it, such as it is lop-sided or the design is corked, he/she takes it as a learning experience , and will know what not to do the next time (“Museum Notes” 3).
If on the other hand, he/she has not decided on a design he/she may take the pot in his/her hands and close his/her eyes and imagine a design that would fit the pot which would be attractive on the piece. A very famous potter, Maria Martinez creates all of her pottery by first closing her eyes with the piece in her hands and then imagining what would look good on this piece and what will fit perfectly. Another artist, Carol Duwyenie, states “My creations in art revolve around symbolism in the relationship to life and Hopi Philosophy of the earth. Just like the paths of life change, twist, and turn, so has my work. I have taken different paths to express my creativity....”(Duwyenie 1). Everyone has there own way of deciding what to place on their art. As...