Leona Maldonado polishes the pottery with a flat rock to smooth it out before she begins to paint; class instructor Ron Carlos is in the background.

Piipaash Pottery for the Lehi Seniors

By Angela Willeford
Au-Authm Action News

On some days the seniors in Lehi are short of activities, but from August 21 to 31 the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Lehi seniors got some one-on-one pottery-making time in a pot-making class led by Piipaash pottery maker Ron Carlos.

Seniors Leona Maldonado, Cindy Garcia, Nadine Torres, Gwen Marquez and Merle Washington visit the Lehi Senior Center daily to participate in the activities the senior program offers them.

Maldonado said about the pottery-making, “Luckily, we didn’t have to gather supplies. But it took him a while to get the supplies,” referring to Carlos.
To obtain the clay for the class to make their traditional pots, it took Carlos more than a month to collect the rocks and grind them down to nothing but fine sand, creating the basis for the mud.

During the class, Maldonado demonstrated excellent pottery-making skills. Her pots were almost as good as Carlos’s pottery. Her reason: “I sat right by Ron the whole time and watched him,” she said. Sisters Garcia and Maldonado said that their grandma, Elsie Vest, used to sell pottery to store owners in Mesa in exchange for food.

For a while, the women sat in silence, deeply involved painting their dried pots. But then suddenly the silence was broken by a grinding sound. Washington’s pot had cracked during the drying process. She was trying to fix the problem by sanding it down, which was the source of the grinding noise. Carlos advised Washington to “Calm down” as she kept grinding her pot. Then he laughed and said, “There is no way you can fix it.” That’s the way it goes with pottery—sometimes you have luck with your pots, and sometimes you don't.
The paint used on the pots is called Kwer, a Piipaash word meaning red paint. When Maldonado asked where the paint brushes were, Carlos laughed and said, “There are none; you have to use your fingers.” Carlos explained that it took him months of gathering the red rock and sanding it down to produce about eight ounces of red paint.

Maldonado pulls it closer to her and says,” I don’t want to drop it.”
Carlos said he would donate his pot that he made in the class.

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