On February 11, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member and artist Ron Carlos demonstrated pottery-firing at the Heard Museum in Phoenix in conjunction with the premiere of The Piipaash Pottery Way, a short documentary produced by Native filmmaker Steven Yazzie (Navajo) that features Carlos and his artistry.
The event was part of the “Prepare for the Fair” lectures series that the Heard organized in anticipation of the 2016 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. The event, which takes place this year on Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, is themed “Celebrating the Art of Pottery.”
Carlos demonstrated his pottery-burning in a designated area on the north side of the museum. Many visitors came to watch and ask questions about Carlos’ pottery-making process.
When the pots had been removed from the fire, attendees made their way to the museum’s Monte Vista Room to watch the documentary, which runs approximately 18 minutes. The film follows Carlos’ process from start to finish, including the gathering and preparation of the clay, the paddle-and-anvil technique, and the baking, also known as firing. The film also brings attention to the struggle of keeping pottery-making in the culture for future generations. According to Carlos, there are people who want to learn and strive for knowledge, but no one has committed themselves to this form of artistry.
After the film, Carlos and Yazzie spoke about their creative process and took questions from the audience. Yazzie thanked the crew behind the scenes, including funding from the Heard and a fellow editor and cameraman. “When I think about this project,” said Yazzie, “I think about it as a collaboration. It’s not just about one person making this project ….This is really about preserving story and history and things that are important for culture and community.”
Carlos thanked his family, friends and his apprentice, August Wood, for their support, as well as SRPMIC Council Member Deanna Scabby and President Delbert Ray, Sr., who were also in attendance. “I’m glad my own people are here to see and to support me in this endeavor,” said Carlos, who has been practicing his craft for nearly 22 years.
Carlos also took the time to talk about his creative process. “In our pottery tradition, we don’t have restrictions … we’re very free, artistically, to do as we wish. So the pottery I make is what I feel like I’m making, and I don’t know what I’m going to make until I actually make it.”
The Heard will show the film on a loop in the Harnett Theater during Indian Fair & Market, where Carlos also will present pottery-making demonstrations.
Carlos teaches pottery-making classes to SRPMIC members through the SRPMIC Cultural Resources Department. To learn more about cultural classes, please call the Cultural Resources Department at (480) 362-6325.