The Lewis Family - Acoma Pueblo
The Lewis family of Acoma specializes in fine-line, mimbres designed seed jars, olla's and storytellers. We carry pottery by Sharon Lewis, Diane Lewis and Carolyn (Lewis) Concho. Gallery offerings include seed jars of all sizes and pitchers. The Lewis family all create their pottery using traditional techniques.
Family and relatives gather at least one day a year to acquire the natural clay. Clays differ from one pueblo to another and are always collected by hand. The best time of year is in the fall or spring in dry weather. Clay is extracted from a mine that is not directly accessible by car. Buckets and pails are carried to a clay mine where they are filled with the rock hard material. The quarter of a mile walk down to the cars is just the beginning. Grinding, soaking and straining is an unavoidable process in preparation of the clay.
Clay is tempered with broken pottery which is ground to a fine powder. These particles do not become pliable when wet and when added to the virgin clay they enhance its elasticity. It is often possible to discern the origin of a vessel by the texture of the clay and temper. Too little temper can cause the pot to shrink and crack when fired. Too much temper can cause a pot to crumble. The ratio of clay to temper is very important. It affects the pots final appearance and gives Acoma pottery its characteristic chunky texture.
Various colors of slips are used for the decoration of Indian pottery. Red, brown, orange and other earth tones are achieved by means of various clays. The colors Sharon uses are all natural pigments found in New Mexico and Arizona. Sharon says that the best time to gather pigment is after a fresh spring rain, which is rare in New Mexico. Walking through the mud in nearby hills, she collects clays for painting her pots. The clay is ground, strained, and often blended with different clays to create a variety of color. Sometimes the raw color is brilliant and beautiful but becomes dull and ugly after firing. Developing new colors for her pottery can be a time consuming and tedious process.
Some of the finest Indian pottery is made at Acoma. It is famous for intricate fine-line designs, smooth surfaces, and egg-shell thin walls.The vessels are strong, water tight and are said to be technically superior to pottery from other pueblos. Acoma ornamentation tends to be black-on-white or red-brown and black on white. The slip is typically light in color, fine in texture, and extremely hard. Slips are chalky white, red, orange or black.
Traditional seed pots were round, like a ball, and had openings just wide enough to accept seed to be held for the winter. The hole was purposely small to prevent rodents from consuming the contents during storage and to eliminate access by insects. The Lewis' pots are contemporary in design.They are flatter in shape and for ornamental purposes, have a hole barely large enough to vent the pots during the firing process. Acoma potters are famous for their intricate fine line designs incorporating prehistoric designs, and non-Acoma motifs. The Lewis' pots include designs from the mimbres tradition, animals and established geometric patterns commonly used by Acoma potters.