Traditional Navajo pottery has changed much over the centuries. At one time they made not only very large storage jars, but also painted pottery. Then, sometime in the 1800s, the hataathli or Medicine Men decreed that painted pottery was off limits – too dangerous to make. Plainware then dominated. Most were coated with pinyon pitch immediately after firing to make them waterproof. Cooking pots, drums and serving bowls were made. It was beginning to disappear by the late 1940s, with only one Navajo family making pottery.
It was revived in the 1950s largely to the efforts of Navajo potter Rose Williams and Bill Beaver, a trader fluent in Navajo, who liked the pottery and worked closely with the potters. On his first venture to sell Navajo pottery to shops he was having no luck until he came into my father's shop: dad bought every single piece he had.
(More Navajo ceramic pieces can be found in the Treasure Chest Gallery.)
A nativity scene graces this canteen** by Elizabeth Manygoats. 7.5 inches high. $160. (TUCSON)
**usually called a ‘wedding vase’ these days, it is a form once known as a double-spouted canteen.