Gallery Artists > Old Lady Nampeyo Biography :

Old Lady Nampeyo (1860 - 1942)  Artworks >>

The village of Hano on Arizona's First Mesa was established around 1700 by Tewa refugees fleeing from Spanish oppression in New Mexico. Even though they learned many of the Hopi ways and intermarried into that Nation, the Tewa maintained their own speech and ceremonial practices. They became known as the Hopi-Tewa. In 1860, Nampeyo of Hano was born to a Tewa mother and a Hopi father, and thus began a life that would gain fame and honor as a master potter of her people. Nampeyo became fascinated as a young child by the pottery made by her grandmother to serve the family's needs. As she grew, she began to make her own, and to experiment with different looks and styles. At the age of 20, she married only to be left by her husband because he feared that her beauty would make her seek other men! Shortly after this disappointment, Nampeyo began to wander in search of the remains of old pottery created by earlier generations. An archaelogical site had been established not far from her home, and she heard of pottery which was being uncovered in the excavations. Nampeyo and her new husband, Lesou, scoured the area finding all shapes and sizes of ancient pottery shards dating back to the Anasazi. Intrigued by the textures, color and design of these works, she began searching for different clays and unusual ways of mixing and baking the clay. She found ways of giving new life to the ancient designs she found, and had soon created a totally new look in Hopi pottery. When other potters discovered that her designs brought a higher price, Nampeyo's art was soon copied far and wide in the territory. Nampeyo has been credited by many authorities as being the artist who brought the beauty of this new Hopi pottery to the attention of the world. She became the symbol of Hopi culture, and was at the height of her fame from about 1901 to 1910. Her works have been collected by the National Museum in Washington, D.C. She left her homeland three times to appear with her creations: in 1905 and 1907 she went to the Hopi House at the Grand Canyon, and in 1910 to the U.S. Land and Irrigation Exposition in Chicago. Always her great supporter and helper, Lesou passed away in 1932. As she grew older, Nampeyo's eyes had begun to fail and Lesou had been invaluable in helping her to maintain the integrity of the art painted on her pottery. With his passing, her daughter Fannie took up her father's work and served as "eyes" for her mother until Nampeyo passed away in 1942. The three other surviving daughters born to Lesou and Nampeyo all were active in some manner with ceramic art. One of Nampeyo's grandaughters, Daisy Hooee is credited with introducing the art of relief settings into the exquisite creations of the Zuni silversmiths. Even though she enjoyed sculpting in silver, Daisy returned to the creation of pottery, and has always signed her art "Nampeyo" in honor of her esteemed grandmother. Source

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