Teresa Wildflower

Polychrome miniature lidded jar by Teresa Wildflower, Chemehuevi

Teresa Wildflower is a member of the Chemehuevi tribe, the southernmost grouping of the Southern Paiutes (the Southern Paiutes traditionally lived in the Colorado River basin and the Mohave Desert in northern Arizona and southeastern California, southern Nevada and southern Utah). She was born in 1935 and became probably the most recognized of Chemehuevi potters.

She most likely grew up on the Colorado River Indian Reservation near Parker, AZ. In those days Federal authorities were actively recruiting Native Americans from high desert tribes to migrate to other reservations and The Colorado River Reservations saw a number of incoming Hopi and Navajo families. Judging from the shapes she made, the kinds of designs she painted and the quality of her work, it's likely she learned to make pottery from one of her Hopi neighbors. There was a bit of a renaissance in Chemehuevi traditional arts beginning in the 1990's with the advent of tribal casinos but Teresa was well established long before that: we found records of a two-week show of her work at Andrews Pueblo Pottery in Albuquerque in the summer of 1982.

Teresa's specialty was miniatures and she was prolific in making them. Because the Chemehuevi pottery tradition was almost wiped out a century before (and the examples available in museum collections look very Hohokam-influenced), it's hard to see anything in her pottery that makes it specifically Chemehuevi. However, her work is light-hearted and reflects a way of looking at nature that is simple, direct and exquisitely to the point. Her pieces are very well made and meticulously painted. Her subject matter is all over the place, from penguins to tropical birds to frogs, lizards, bears and coyotes. Her creations are exacting, built to a scale where 1" is equal to 1'. It's easy enough to confuse her work with Hopi, Zuni or Cochiti pieces as she created with styles and shapes and painted designs from all across the Southwest Native American pottery world.

Teresa isn't producing her pottery any more but she did teach her daughter, Niadi, her methods and processes. Niadi produced similarly beautiful pottery for a few years but she hasn't made any in years now either.

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