dried, ground by hand on a stone metate, and mixed with grit. Then
it is sifted and ground to a fine powder. After the powder is mixed
with water, it is spread out on a gypsum slab to cure for two to three
weeks. More water is added, and the clay is kneaded to a proper
consistency for pottery making.
To form the pot, a clay "tortilla" is patted out and
then pressed into a shallow bowl mold. This gives many of
the pots their characteristic, rounded bottoms, and traditionally,
would make the pot a good shape doe evenly heating foods over a fire.
A thick "donut" of clay is placed on top of this base. The pot
is shaped up into a very thin wall, usually by pinching, sometimes by
coiling and smoothing the clay. Finally, a small "donut" of clay
is added at the top so that the rim can be shaped.
After being smoothed with a piece of hacksaw blade, the
pot is dried, finished with sandpaper, and polished with a stone to a
high shine. The matte design is added by making a "slip" or
paint of water and clay. Often using only a single hair from the
head of the potter, the fine lines and incredible designs are painted
on using hand-eye coordination and the artist's artistic imagination.
The pot is fired to harden the clay. First the
pot is warmed in the sun. Outside, the pot is heated in an
efficient, hot fire which can reach a temperature of about 1220
degrees Fahrenheit. The fuel is cattle dung and cottonwood.
Manure from range-fed cattle is preferred to that from grain-fed
cattle because it burns more cleanly.
If a black pot is desired, then the firing conditions
are altered. Pulverized dung is placed beneath the pot after
which the pot is covered with a metal box. A clean, hot fire
burns on the outside of the metal box, and the pulverized dung burns
as an oxygen-poor, smoky fire inside the metal box. This process
both hardens and blackens the pot.