"I’ve always been inspired by the spirit
of clay,” says Senora Lynch, an artist from the Haliwa-Saponi tribe,
who calls her pottery Living Traditions. “Working in clay takes me
back to my childhood days of playing in mud, a free spirit.”
Senora Lynch became interested in making
pottery at age fourteen, when she assisted the tribe’s elders with a
pottery class. She made some pottery herself, but after the class
ended, she had neither the opportunity nor the materials to continue.
Twenty years later, Senora met a potter who agreed to teach her the
craft. She’s been a potter ever since.
Senora creates her pottery at home using
the hand-coiling method, an exacting process. First, she pounds red
clay and rolls it into long ropes. Next, she coils the ropes and
them to form the desired vessel shape, pressing them together.
She then smoothes the clay with her fingers and scrapes it with a tool
to make the coils stick together. She continues to smooth and stretch
the coils with her fingers, finally polishing the vessel with a rock
to make it even smoother and shinier. To make a design, Senora places
white clay on top of the red clay and etches patterns in it with a
fine tool. The vessel then goes into a kiln near Senora ’s home and is
fired for four to eight hours. This process results in exquisite
pottery that has been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of
History, 1996 Olympic games
in Atlanta, and Smithsonian Institution.
Superstitions, sayings, and stories from
the Haliwa-Saponi inspire Senora ’s unique designs, as does the
natural environment. She uses the dogwood flower because it is a sign
of spring, its appearance signaling that the time to plant corn has
arrived. Tobacco, the spirit of life, and corn, the staff of life, are
sacred plants to the Haliwa-Saponi and also appear in her designs. “My
designs are my descriptions of tradition,” Senora explains.
Senora is also an educator who teaches
students about American Indians and works to overcome racial
stereotypes. In her school programs—for kindergarten through twelfth
grade, focusing on fourth grade—Senora uses art to teach the history
and culture of her people and other North Carolina tribes. Children,
she observes, respond positively as she dispels the image of Indians
as feather-wearing hunters on horseback. Senora urges teachers to
learn more about Indian history and culture. She was nominated for a
2001 North Carolina Folk Heritage Award for her work in promoting and
preserving the culture of the Haliwa-Saponi people.