Black and white flat jar with Mimbres geometric design
 made by Paula Estevan of Acoma
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Paula Estevan, Acoma, Black and white flat jar with Mimbres geometric design
Paula Estevan
Acoma
$ SOLD
xxack9140m2
Black and white flat jar with Mimbres geometric design
3 1/2 in H by 10 3/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: P. Estevan 19 Acoma, NM
Date Created: 2019
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Paula Estevan

Acoma
Paula Estevan, Acoma Pueblo potter
Geometric design on a black and white jar
 

Born in 1967, Paula Estevan is from Acoma Pueblo. Making pottery since 1986, she learned traditional painting from her mother Patricia Estevan and pottery making from her great-grandmother, Mary Estevan Chino, with input from Mary Chino and Victoria Garcia. Then she took what they taught her and moved forward into water jars with extremely thin walls and black-and-white geometric designs rendered with laser-like precision.

Paula's hand coiled pots are exceptional examples of contemporary Acoma pottery created with perfect shape and form. Her process involves selecting a single Acoma design element and repeating it in an extremely fine progressive pattern on the entire surface of the pot. She says her inspiration comes from her great-grandmother Mary Estevan Chino. Paula also says she takes making her pottery very seriously, at the same time she admits the creation process is very therapeutic for her.

She has never shown her works at either Santa Fe Indian Market or Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show. Paula's work is included in Southern Pueblo Pottery: 2000 Artist Biographies by Gregory Schaaf and Pueblo and Navajo Contemporary Pottery by Berger & Schiffer. She signs her work: "P. Estevan, Acoma, NM."

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Acoma Pueblo

Acoma from the air
Sky City

According to Acoma oral history, the sacred twins led their ancestors to "Ako," a magical mesa composed mostly of white rock, and instructed those ancestors to make that mesa their home. Acoma Pueblo is called "Sky City" because of its position atop the mesa.

Acoma, Old Oraibi (at Hopi) and Taos all lay claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited community in the U.S. Those competing claims are hard to settle as each village can point to archaeological remnants close by to substantiate each village's claim. Acoma is located about 60 miles west of Albuquerque.

While the people of Acoma have an oral tradition that says they've been living in the same area for more than 2,000 years, archaeologists feel more that the present pueblo was established near the end of the major migrations in the 1300's. The location is essentially on the boundary between the Mogollon (Mimbres), Hohokam (Salado) and Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo) cultures. Each of those cultures has had an impact on the styles and designs of Acoma pottery, especially since modern potters have been getting the inspiration for many of their designs from pot shards they have found while walking on pueblo lands.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado ascended the cliff to visit Acoma in 1540. He afterward wrote that he "repented having gone up to the place." But the Spanish came back later and kept coming back. Around In 1598 relations between the Spanish and the Acoma took a really bad turn with the arrival of Don Juan de Onate and the soldiers, settlers and Franciscan monks that accompanied him. After ascending to the mesa top, Onate decided to force the Acomas to swear loyalty to the King of Spain and to the Pope. When the Acomas realized what the Spanish meant by that, a group of Acoma warriors attacked a group of Spanish soldiers and killed 11 of them, including one of Onate's nephews. Don Juan de Onate retaliated by attacking the pueblo, burning most of it and killing more than 600 people. Another 500 people were imprisoned by the Spanish, males between the ages of 12 and 25 were sold into slavery and 24 men over the age of 25 had their right foot amputated. Many of the women over the age of 12 were also forced into slavery and were parceled out among Catholic convents in Mexico City. Two Hopi men were also captured at Acoma and, after having one hand cut off, they were released and sent home to spread the word about Spain's resolve to subjugate the inhabitants of Nuevo Mexico (while Spanish monks did make the almost fruitless trip, Spanish military never did make an appearance in Hopiland).

When word of the massacre (and the punishments meted out after) got back to King Philip in Spain, he banished Don Juan de Onate from Nuevo Mexico. Some Acomas had escaped that fateful Spanish attack and returned to the mesa top in 1599 to begin rebuilding.

In 1620 a Royal Decree was issued which established civil offices in each pueblo and Acoma had its first governor appointed. By 1680, the situation between the pueblos and the Spanish had deteriorated again to the point where the Acomas were extremely willing participants in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.

After the successful Pueblo Revolt and the Spanish had retreated back to Mexico, refugees from other pueblos began to arrive at Acoma, fearing the eventual Spanish return and probable reprisals. That strained the resources of Acoma until the Spanish returned and residents of the pueblo had to make a hard decision. Many of the refugees chose to try a peaceful solution: they relocated to the ancient Laguna area and made peace with the Spanish as soon as they reappeared in the region.

Over the next 200 years, Acoma suffered from breakouts of smallpox and other European diseases to which they had no immunity. At times they would side with the Spanish against nomadic raiders from the Ute, Apache and Comanche tribes. Eventually New Mexico changed hands, then the railroads arrived and Acoma became dependent on goods made in the outside world.

For many years the villagers were content on the mesa. Now most live in villages on the valley floor where water, electricity and other necessities are easily available while a few families still make their permanent home on the mesa top. The old pueblo is used almost exclusively these days for ceremonial celebrations.

Acoma's dense, slate-like clay, allows the pottery to be thin, lightweight and durable. After the pot is formed, it is painted with a slip of white clay. Black and red design motifs are added using mineral and plant derived paints. Fine lines, geometrics, parrots and old Mimbres designs are commonly seen motifs. The traditional paintbrush for Acoma potters is made from the yucca plant.

Historically Acoma was known for large, thin-walled "ollas," jars used for storing food and water. With the arrival of the railroad and tourists in the 1880's, Acoma potters adapted the size, shapes and styles of their pots in order to appeal to the new buyers.

Acoma Pueblo is home to noted potters of the Lewis and Chino families, as well as many others. Acoma potters felt it was an inappropriate display of ego to put their signature on a pot up into the mid-1960's. The 1960's is also a time when the primary white clay vein mined by the Acomas passed through a layer of widely distributed impurities, impurities that passed through the pottery making process and appeared only in the firing. Or worse yet, sometimes well after firing. The clay problem was so bad it affected virtually every potter in the pueblo and every pot they made. So many pots spalled that even the best potters sold them anyway, often signed. Thankfully, by the late 1960's they had dug through that layer of clay and into a deeper layer that didn't have the problem.

Acoma Pueblo c. 1923

Acoma Pueblo c. 1932

Map showing location of Acoma Pueblo

For more info:
at Wikipedia
official website
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Upper photo courtesy of Marshall Henrie, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
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Mimbres Pottery

Mimbres Mogollon

Polychrome seed pot with a Mimbres-style fish and geometric design

Rebecca Lucario
Acoma
Polychrome bowl with black-and-white mountain sheep and geometric design

Verda Toledo
Jemez
Black and white canteen with Mimbres animal and geometric design

Marie Z. Chino
Acoma


The Mimbres Mogollon culture was named for the Mimbres River in the Gila Mountains. They lived in the area from about 850 CE to about 1150 CE. Substantial depopulation of the area occurred but there were many small surviving populations. Over time, these melted into the surrounding cultures with many families moving north to Acoma, Zuni and Hopi while others moved south to Casas Grande and Paquime.

The time period from about 850 CE to about 1000 CE is classed the Late Basketmaker III period. The time period was characterized by the evolution of square and rectangular pithouses with plastered floors and walls. Ceremonial structures were generally dug deep into the ground. Local forms of pottery have been classified as early Mimbres black-on-white (formerly Boldface Black-on-White), textured plainware and red-on-cream.

The Classic Mimbres phase (1000 CE to 1150 CE) was marked with the construction of larger buildings in clusters of communities around open plazas. Some constructions had up to 150 rooms. Most groupings of rooms included a ceremonial room, although smaller square or rectangular underground kivas with roof openings were also being used. Classic Mimbres settlements were located in areas with well-watered floodplains available, suitable for the growing of maize, squash and beans. The villages were limited in size by the ability of the local area to grow enough food to support the village.

Pottery produced in the Mimbres region is distinct in style and decoration. Early Mimbres black-on-white pottery was primarily decorated with bold geometric designs, although some early pieces show human and animal figures. Over time the rendering of figurative and geometric designs grew more refined, sophisticated and diverse, suggesting community prosperity and a rich ceremonial life. Classic Mimbres black-on-white pottery is also characterized by bold geometric shapes but done with refined brushwork and very fine linework. Designs may include figures of one or multiple humans, animals or other shapes, bounded by either geometric decorations or by simple rim bands. A common figure on a Mimbres pot is the turkey, another is the thunderbird. There are also a lot of different fish depicted, some are species found in the Gulf of California.

A lot of Mimbres bowls (with kill holes) have been found in archaeological excavations but most Mimbres pottery shows evidence it was actually used in day-to-day life and wasn't produced just for burial purposes.

There's a lot of speculation as to what happened to the Mimbres people as their countryside was rapidly depopulated after about 1150 CE. The people of Isleta, Acoma and Laguna find ancient Mimbres pot shards on their pueblo lands, indicating that pottery designs from the Mimbres River area migrated north. There are similar designs found on pot shards littering the ground around Casas Grandes and Paquime near Mata Ortiz and Nuevo Casas Grandes in northern Mexico. Other than where they went, the only reasons offered for why they left involve at least small scale climate change. The usual comment is "drought" but drought could have been brought on by the eruption of a volcano on the other side of the planet, or a small change in the El Nino-La Nina schedule. Whatever it was that started the outflow of people, it began in the Mimbres River area and spread outward from there. Excavations in the Eastern Mimbres region (nearer to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) have shown that the people adapted to new circumstances and that adaptation itself moved them closer into alignment with surrounding tribes and cultures. Eventually they just kind of merged into the background, although the groups that moved south and built up Paquime and Casas Grandes seem to have lost a war and survivors migrated to the west, to a land a bit more hospitable for them.


Black and white canteen with a bighorn ram's head spout and Mimbres ram and geometric design

Michael Kanteena
Laguna
Black and white flat jar with Mimbres geometric design

Paula Estevan
Acoma
Polychrome jar with Mimbres rabbit and geometric design, inside and out

Franklin Tenorio
Santo Domingo
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