Artist talk, reception, and open studio:
November 14, 2019, 5:30-7 pm
School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe
Zuni potter Timothy Edaakie considers himself something of a revivalist in the world of natural pottery. While conventional ceramicists opt for the speed and convenience of modern throwing and firing methods, everything about Edaakie’s meticulous approach is slow, spiritual, and aimed at celebrating the seminal work his ancestors pioneered.
As 2019’s Rollin and Mary Ella King Native artist fellow, Edaakie traveled from his home on the Zuni Reservation to Santa Fe this fall to live, work, and speak at the School for Advanced Research. Specifically, he plans on re-creating two Zuni pieces from SAR’s collection using clay and other materials collected from Zuni land during his fellowship: an A:shiwi olla jar and a traditional stew bowl.
We spoke with Edaakie about his introduction to pottery, his methods, and plans for what he hopes to accomplish at SAR this fall.
Patrick McGuire: How and when did natural pottery transform from an interest into an identity for you?
Timothy Edaakie: It started with my art teacher in high school, Gabriel Paloma. I tried to get into his traditional pottery class, but it was full, so I took his ceramics class instead. I saw what the traditional students were working on, and regretted not being able to take the course. I didn’t start making traditional pottery as an adult until I met a friend that knew how to do it. Around then, a traditional religious Zuni society asked me to create a ceremonial bowl because the one they were using was a glazed ceramic, and it spoiled their medicine water. In a natural bowl, the water wouldn’t spoil because the clay is porous. This got me searching for natural pigments, clays, and other materials. A Hopi friend taught me traditional firing methods using sheep manure. I started asking ranchers to collect their manure, and they let me.
It’s fascinating you’re using literal waste to create something beautiful that endures. There’s poetry in that.
Yes, thank you.
You gather all the materials you need from Zuni land. How does that process work?
I don’t just go out and collect materials. I do so spiritually in the Zuni manner. There’s a lot of prayers and spirituality involved in collecting this stuff. Mother Earth is helping me. I use pickaxes to mine the clay, haul it off in buckets, bring it home, grind it down, soak it in water, and strain it. It’s a whole process. I don’t use a wheel, and everything is done by hand. The natural paint I use is called beeweed. It’s made with wild spinach, which a lot of people don’t know about. Learning about it was tricky because several artists were reluctant to tell me how it was made, but a good friend eventually showed me.
Do you consider your work to be old or new? It’s obviously rooted in the past, but is aimed at informing the present. That’s an interesting contrast.
It’s more of a revival. Zuni People were asking where the old heirloom pots were, so I became interested in bringing back the old style of pottery and prehistoric designs from the area that people don’t know about, especially ancient styles that evolved into modern pottery. I studied old pottery methods from the prehistoric era to the Spanish habitation, to the mid-13th century to the 18th century, which the Zuni people are most known for.