Pottery in the Southwest

The production of pottery in the Southwest has changed little since its appearance around 300 B.C.E. The Pueblo women usually coil pots, always by hand, and do not use the potter’s wheel. Some designs have changed, particularly with the use of different colors, and some potters have innovated to create new effects. Others have reintroduced old methods of firing, particularly Maria Martinez, who created the famous black on black pottery. Other potters, notably Nampeyo, have revived traditional designs and patterns, while also expressing their own.


Pueblo tribes create the best pottery in the Southwest and are known for their skills beyond that region. Many Pueblo people considered pots “as having a conscious existence of their own, capable of feeling and expressing emotion” (Furst and Furst  1982, 38). This belief reveals itself in the production of the pots. Only certain songs and noises could be sung or made during the creation of pottery, the potter would place some food with the pot when put in the kiln, and when the potter finished a piece, “she expressed deep relief that it was now a ‘Made Being,’ with a personal existence” (Furst and Furst 1982, 39).