Jean Sahme

Bird elements and geometric design on a polychrome wedding vase

Born in 1948, Jean Sahme Nampeyo is a Hopi-Tewa potter from the village of Hano at First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation. Her mother was Priscilla Namingha Nampeyo, her father Emerson Namingha. She is the eldest daughter in a family of eight brothers and sisters. Jean has a daughter named Donella and she is now grandmother to two wonderful kids, Kaniela and Keanu.

After years of watching and sometimes helping, Jean began seriously working with clay in 1972, working alongside her mother and grandmother (Rachel Namingha Nampeyo), both of whom mentored and influenced her styles, designs and techniques. Jean vividly remembers advice her grandmother gave her "to respect and follow the traditional method for it will sustain your livelihood." Jean has followed that advice closely all her life and in 2014 she was declared an "Arizona Living Treasure."

Jean makes a whole range of shapes from cylinders to canteens to effigy pots. Her favorite designs to decorate them include butterflies, migration patterns, bird elements, rain and cloud patterns.

Jean's work can be found in various galleries, museums, private collections, colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. Jean was given the Hopi name, Sak'Honsee (Tobacco Flower) at birth and that's how she has signed many of her creations. She also spells her name "Sahme" instead of the usual "Sahmie."

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