The Process

So often people ask us, "How long does it take to make a piece of pottery?" In an attempt to answer this question we always tell people about the various steps of pottery making. We feel that pictures may be clearer than words. Illustrated here is the process of making an Acoma pot. We are indebted to Franklin Peters of Acoma pueblo who shared with us his time, material, skill, and good humor. His pottery can be seen here.

Click on any photo to enlarge!

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The Materials
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Clay in rock form
The clay in raw rock form

Pottery shards used to temper the clay
Old pottery shards for tempering the clay

Raw Rock slip
The white slip in raw rock form

Yellow slip as rock
The yellow slip in raw rock form

Brown paint as rock
The brown paint in raw rock form

 
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Tools
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Tools used in the process
Building tools consisting of gourds, knife, and wooden spatula

Old pottery pieces for forms
Old pieces of pottery used as a form to start the pot also called "Base Bowls"

Yucca leavesa are used for paint brushes
From right to left, the yucca soaking to soften, the yucca chewed to reveal fibers, the yucca trimmed and ready to use for painting
 
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Preparation of Clay
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Clay in rock form
Clay in rock form

Clay soaking in a bin
Clay soaking to break up the hard bits and to make it malleable in preparation for sun drying and coarse grinding

Grinding the clay
Grinding the dry clay chunks into powder

Grinding the clay
Grinding the dry clay chunks to powder

Grinding the clay
Grinding the dry clay chunks to powder

Grinding the clay some more
Grinding the dry clay chunks to powder

Grinding the clay yet finer
Grinding the dry clay chunks to powder

Clay ground fine enough to use
Clay ground to the correct fine consistency

Ground clay going into a bowl
Ground clay powder being put into bowl

Finely ground clay
Finished dry ground clay

Pottery shards for tempering the clay
Pottery shards used for tempering (adding additional structural support) the clay

Pottery shards for grinding
Pottery shards to be ground

Breaking up the pottery shards
Pounding shards with a stone

Grinding the pottery shards more
Pounding shards finer with a stone

Grinding pottery shards finer yet
Pounding shards finer with a stone

Pottery shards eventually become powder
Grinding shards

Enough grinding turns the shards to a fine powder
Finished grinding shards to powder

The powdered clay gets poured on a mixing stone
Pouring powdered clay on mixing stone which was handed down from his grandmother

Ground pottery shards are then added to the clay powder
Adding ground pottery shards

Adding more ground pottery shards to the clay powder
Adding ground pottery shards

Hand mixing ground pottery shards into the clay powder
Hand mixing powdered clay and powdered shards

The powder mix gets some water added
adding water using traditional native big gulp cup

The clay-water mix gets hand mixed
Mixing water, clay, and shards

The mix is scraped up with a wooden scraper
Using wooden tool to scrape up every bit of clay

Scraping up all the mixed clay is important
Using wooden tool to scrape up every bit of clay

To be usable, the clay must be formed iunto a block and stored overnight
Forming the clay into a block to store it overnight to help it become more usable

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Coiling
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Water, tools and <em>puki</em> ready
Water, tools, and pottery bowl in place to begin forming

A small bit of clay to begin with
Starting with a small piece of clay

The clay gets worked to remove air bubbles
Punching the clay repeatedly to remove air bubbles and forming into a bowl shape

Forming the bowl shape
Forming the clay into a bowl shape

Using a piece of a gourd to work the clay on the inside
Using a gourd to work the clay outwards from the inside

Using a piece of gourd to work the clay outwards
Using a gourd to work the clay outwards from the inside

Using a piece of gourd to work the clay out from the inside
Using a gourd to work the clay outwards from the inside

Placing the clay into the bowl form
Placing the clay into the bowl form

Pushing the clay into a bowl form
Pushing the clay into the bowl form

Finished and ready for the first coil
Finished clay in bowl form

Preparing the first coil
Preparing clay for the first coil

Pounding the clay to remove air bubbles
Pounding the first coil with hand to flatten

Pounding the first coil flat
Pounding the first coil with hand to flatten

Still flattening the clay
Pounding the first coil with hand to flatten

The first flat coil
Flattened clay coil

Adding the first clay coil to the bowl
Adding the clay coil to the bowl

Adding the fist clay coil to the bowl
Adding the clay coil to the bowl

Adding the first clay coil to the bowl
Adding the clay coil to the bowl

Smoothing the first clay coil
Smoothing the added coil

Smoothing the first clay cloil to the bowl
Smoothing the added coil

Smoothing the first clay coil
Smoothing the added coil

Smoothing the first coil
Smoothing the added coil

Preparing to make the second coil
Preparing the clay for the second coil

Rolling out the second coil
Rolling the second coil

Flattening the second coil
Flattening the second coil

Flattening the second coil
Flattening the second coil

Adding the second coil to the bowl
Attaching the second coil

Adding the second coil of clay
Attaching the second coil

Attaching the second coil to the bowl
Attaching the second coil

Smoothing the second coil
Smoothing the second coil

Rolling out the third coil
Rolling out the third coil

Flattening the third coil
Flattening the third coil

Attaching the third coil to the bowl
Attaching the third coil

Attaching the third coil
Attaching the third coil

Smoothing the third coil
Smoothing the third coil

Smoothing the third coil to the pot
Smoothing the third coil

Shaping the pot
Shaping the pot

Shaping the pot
Shaping the pot

Beginning the first trim
The first trim

Trimming the pot
The first trim

Stretching and shaping the pot from inside
Stretching and shaping the pot

Shaping the pot from outside
Stretching and shaping the pot

Stretching and shaping the pot
Stretching and shaping the pot

Stretching and shaping the pot
Stretching and shaping the pot

The second trim of the pot opening
The second trim of the top of the pot

Trimming the pot
Trimming the pot

Trimming the pot
Trimming the pot

Trimming the pot
Trimming the pot

The trimmed pot
Trimmed pot

Final shaping of the neck
Shaping the neck: You can view this finished piece here

Into the drying process
Drying process: The piece on the left is the one from above, the one in the middle is a completely dried pot

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Slipping
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The white slip in original rock form
The white slip in rock form

Soajking the white slip
The white slip soaking

Applying the white slip with a piece of cloth
Applying White slip using a piece of cloth

Using a cloth to apply the white slip
Applying White slip using a piece of cloth

Applying the white slip
Applying White slip using a piece of cloth

Final application of the white slip
Applying White slip using a piece of cloth

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Polishing
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Back to the drying process
Drying process: The piece on the right is after the white slip has dried

Polishing white a round river rock
Polishing with round river stone

Polishing with a water-polished river stone
Polishing with round river stone


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Painting
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Brown paint in original rock form
The brown paint in rock form

The brown paint grinding stone handed down from Franklin's grandmother
The brown paint stone handed down from Franklin's grandmother

Adding water to the brown paint stone
Water added to the brown paint stone

Grinding the brown paint stone to achieve proper concentration of pigment
Grinding the brown paint rock in the brown paint stone with water until the right concentration is achieved

Grinding more of the brown paint stone
Grinding the brown paint rock in the brown paint stone with water until the right concentration is achieved

Adding processed bee-weed to the brown paint mix
Grinding the processed bee weed into the ground brown paint rock and water until the correct amount has been added

Painting brown with a yucca brush
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Using a yucca brush to paint brown
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Brown paint being applied with a yucca brush
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Adding brown paint with a yucca brush
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Painting with a yucca brush
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Using a yucca brush to add brown paint
Painting brown with a yucca brush

Orange slip in original rock form
Orange slip in rock form

Soaking the orange slip
The orange slip soaking

The orange slip dry
The orange slip dried

Paint made of the orange slip
The orange slip reconstituted into paint

Painting orange slip
Painting yellow slip

Painting orange slip with a yucca brush
Painting yellow slip

Adding orange paint with a yucca brush
Painting yellow slip

Painting orange paint with a yucca brush
Painting yellow slip

Painting with the orange paint
Painting yellow slip

Buffing the ornage paint
Buffing the yellow paint

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The end product
And after firing, This is the result
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