Legacies in Pottery
Acoma: Lucy Martin Lewis, Dolores Lewis
San Illdefonso: Martha Appleleaf
Any time I think of Acoma pottery what comes to mind first is polychrome pottery, high shouldered thin walled vessels created in the horizontal coil method. Over the years this style has changed and grown, from the tools the artists are using, materials and even the way pots are being fired. Traditionally, the old method of firing is done outside in an open kiln verses an electric kiln which is being used more and more today in the modern method of firing pottery. I have a fond memory of meeting Lucy Lewis in the early 90’s. It was a great joy to me because I very much admired her work and her legacy. I was excited to meet her children as well. She was a very kind, and hospitable as well as her daughters and sons. That moment was one of the greatest rewards of working at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Today, I still have the same admiration for Lucy Lewis’ creations which are more of a black on white Anasazi design which evolved into a more refined polychrome. As we can see Lucy’s daughter Dolores is proudly carrying on her mother’s legacy by still producing the old Mimbres style designs in black on white. Though she carries on the Lewis name and their designs she has also found her own voice and has earned a respectable reputation as a master potter.
San Ildefons’s Martha Appleleaf is a skilled and collectible artist with a highly respected lineage. Her mother is noted pottery Carmelita Dunlap and her grandmother is renowned potter Juanita Vigil, who is a sister to the legendary Maria Martinez. She has a son Eric Fender who is also a distinguished potter. They are all featured in the publication “14 families of Pueblo Pottery”. Her family has won many awards and has had numerous write ups. Like Maria, she is noted for her seamless mirror like stone polishes. When one views her pieces up close this high stone polish brings out a positive and negative reflection in her designs. Martha likes to do a lot of plates and does a two tone terra cotta finish.
Lucy Martin Lewis, in partnership with Mary Chino kept the tradition of Acoma pottery alive. San Illdefonso’s very own Maria Martinez and husband Julian revived an old pottery style know today as stone polished black on black ware. Often times I wonder what these pioneer’s would think about the changes in today’s pottery crafting, such as the introduction of contemporary styles, fine line designs, modifications to the pottery shape itself and the modern use of the electric kiln. I also wonder how they would feel about artisans use of store bought commercial clay, or the use of green ware and the switch over to using non-traditional methods of creating pottery. One thing is certain, their families are adapting wonderfully.
As time has marched on I have seen a lot of changes in the world of pottery. It is my hope our younger potters will take note in these styles and methods so that the art of fine pottery crafting is never forgotten and shared with casual admirers of Pueblo pottery and serious collectors alike. The legend continues….