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Community Member Ron Carlos Hosts Month-Long Creative Residency in Scottsdale

Ron Carlos teaches participants about the red clay pottery painting at the Scottsdale Livery Studio.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Ron Carlos gave non–Community members a chance to participate in a four-hour Red Clay Pottery Painting Workshop on Saturday, September 24, at the Scottsdale Livery studio space.

The workshop was one of four events held to mark Carlos’ Scottsdale Public Art Creative Residency throughout September. The workshop and related events were held at the Scottsdale Livery space in historic Old Town Scottsdale.

During the workshop, students took a plain pot already made by Carlos and learned how to paint a traditional design on it by first making a pencil tracing and then applying the paint.

“There is no going back once you start painting,” said Carlos to the class.

Carlos discussed the process of sourcing the special clay from the earth and how he looks for and chops wood to fire the pots. “The paint is made from red clay, which took a very long time to collect,” said Carlos to the class.

“[Making a pot] is a lengthy process,” Carlos told to the class. “You guys have the easy part, which is to just paint your designs.”

Carlos has taught this class in the Community several times and said that many students tend to drop out because of the required commitment.

“This is how the Community is supposed to learn, but I think they see how long it takes and quit,” he said. “[Pottery-making is] a hard process to keep up with.”

After the class, the instructor collected the students’ pots to take them home to fire them. He warned the participants that “Sometimes they crack; it’s just what happens, so don’t be disappointed.”

Carlos learned the traditional pottery-making technique at the age of 22 and has been teaching the class for the past 10 years.

Surprisingly, Carlos said, non-SRPMIC members tend to want to learn the process more than the tribal members do.

Three other events were associated with Carlos’ Creative Residency. On September 10, he demonstrated the paddle-and-anvil technique of Piipaash pottery making. On September 15, a documentary film screening was held for Paddle and Anvil: A Piipaash Pottery Tradition, followed by a question-and-answer session with Carlos and the documentary’s director, Steven Yazzie. Then on September 29, a closing reception was held for the Ron Carlos Creative Residency, during which the students from the painting class could come back to pick up their finished pots from Carlos.

Carlos also teaches traditional language, singing, dancing, beading and gourd-making through the SRPMIC Cultural Resources Department.