Steve Lucas

Hopi
Polychrome pot by Steve Lucas
 

Steve Lucas has the Hopi name of Koyemsi (Hopi-Tewa for the Mudhead Clown), the clan to which he belongs on Hopi First Mesa. Koyemsi and the mudhead logo appear on the base of each of Steve's pots along with the corn logo, symbol of the Corn clan, the clan of Steve's great-great-grandmother Nampeyo of Hano.

Taught the traditional art by his aunt Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo, Steve has emerged as one of the premier artists of the Nampeyo family, consistently winning blue ribbons at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Fair and the Gallup InterTribal Ceremonial since 1993.

Prior to creating a pot, Steve gathers clay from special places in the surrounding mesa areas on the Hopi Reservation. There is no need to add temper (a substance which helps the clay hold together) since the Clay Mother has made certain the clay found on Hopi is naturally tempered.

Next, the clay is soaked with water to remove debris before being strained through the legs of an old pair of jeans. It's allowed to sit and soak, then water is skimmed off the top until the proper material consistency is reached. This mixture is kneaded thoroughly to remove impurities and air bubbles to prevent the finished piece from exploding during firing.

The molding process begins with the traditional method of hand-coiling, pinching and scraping. A puki bowl is employed to form the base of the pot and the potter winds coils up from there. He decides on the shape he is going to make once he has begun coiling: as he and so many other Native American potters say, "the clay shapes itself." Once coiled, scraped and formed, the pot is allowed to dry before being sanded. Traditionally, the Hopi have made extremely thin-walled pots which are very attractive to the buyer but they challenge the potter to make walls substantial enough to withstand the process. Dextra taught Steve well, the thickness of his walls is just right. After sanding is complete, Steve pencils his designs on the pot, adapting them as necessary to fit the size and shape of the piece.

Stone polishing follows sanding and can take several hours or more depending on the size of the pot. Painting the designs begins once the polishing is complete. The black paint comes from the wild spinach plant which is boiled, dried and mixed to the right consistency so that it will not come off during or after firing. The red paint comes from finely ground red ochre. Finally, the pot is ground-fired - which begins with a screen over the wood and manure, then pot shards to cover the new pottery and protect it from absorbing too much heat. More manure is added for fuel and cedar is sprinkled for good luck. After several hours, when the fire has burned down, the new creation is unveiled. One can almost hear a sigh of relief when Steve pulls out a beautiful pot, perfectly shaped and colored.

Steve is married to potter Yvonne Analla Lucas, sister of Laguna Pueblo potter Calvin Analla Jr.


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