The Hand and Tradition: A Conversation with Acoma Pottery

Acoma Flyer

Artist Statement:  In August of 2014, a group of Brigham Young University fine art students, faculty and art educators participated in a collaborative project traveling to Taos, New Mexico to attend a weeklong pottery workshop dedicated to teaching the traditional handbuilding methods of the Pueblo Acoma Native Americans. The goals of this collaboration included the enhancement of each participant’s art practice, an increased understanding of the fine craft and tradition associated with Acoma pottery, as well as the development of specific art curriculum geared toward elementary aged students in Utah. The workshop was taught by Claudia Lewis Mitchell and Monica Lewis Mitchell, daughters of Emma Lewis and granddaughters of Lucy Lewis—a renowned Pueblo Acoma potter. During the class, the very specific methods practiced by the Acoma potters were taught and unique insight into how the tradition has been passed down through the generations was given. To further contextualize the experience, the group was able to tour the Acoma Pueblo in Sky City, New Mexico as well as to camp at Chaco Canyon archaeological site, which was once inhabited by Pueblo ancestors. This unique experience also inspired the collaborators to create a similar experience after returning to Utah. Several of the group drove to Hobble Creek Canyon to dig up raw clay. This clay was taken back to the BYU ceramic studio, refined and formed into ceramic pieces using the methods learned from the New Mexico workshop. (This project was made possible though a generous grant from the Laycock Center for Collaborative Studies and the BYU Department of Visual Art.)

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