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 Dismal River Pottery

Welcome to the world of mud, fire, water and air.  Basic elements combined with art and science in an effort to understand those that came before us.  I am a native resident of the Colorado High Plains but also call the Four Corners and Canyon Country of Utah home.  On this site you will find history, observation, educated opinion and pottery replications of prehistoric peoples.  Enjoy the photos and the stories representing this journey. Scroll through the "Gallery" to view pieces for sale and check the "Postings" for updates on current happenings. You can also contact me to for commission work, presentations, demonstrations, or workshops.

 

Replication implies "everything" is exactly the same.  I use processes that are the same.  In relevant geographic areas, I source and harvest clays straight from the earth.  I grind and prep the clay with stone tools.  I prepare paints from sourced minerals and from plants like Rocky Mountain Bee Plant and Wild Sunflower, applying them with a chewed yucca or a home made hairbrush. Every vessel is hand formed, absolutely no use of the modern potter's wheel, and fired in an open pit kiln using authentic wood, bark and/or chips, creating different atmospheres in an attempt to achieve different results. But still I use the word replication timidly.  I do my best, as if I existed with them in their time period.  

 

Pottery, well actually the people of the pots, took over my life a few years ago.  On the Plains, sherds exhibiting a twisted cord impression lay amongst the buffalo grass or turned up with the farmer's plow. In the canyons, collapsed stone homes dot the mesas and the canyon alcoves, displaying pottery sherds of red, black, white and grey. These bits of the past, like seasonal fallen leaves scattered thickly on the ground, draw in the observer for admiration and study.

 

Little research, reference or experiential studies have been done on the Plains pottery, especially in comparison to larger populations of early North America. Eastern Colorado is a wide open, treeless space with little protection from extreme heat and cold.  Well over a thousand  years ago a group of hunter/gatherers, now referred to as Plains Woodland, migrated in from the East. Possessing the technology for ceramics, they possibly came here in pursuit of the best the prairie had to offer, the Bison.  This creature instigated unique vessels much larger in size than the ones seen in the east. Over time Plains pottery in the hands of populations like the Upper Republican, Dismal River and the Athapaskan changed, being influenced by culture, farming and available clays. 

Anasazi Pottery, Prehistoric Reproduction

The Ancestral Puebloan, a more studied group of which volumes have been written, lived in the Colorado Plateau area of the desert Southwest.  Over hundreds of years their pots also evolved showing variations of a basic greyware, corrugated cooking pots, beautifully decorated vessels of Black-on-White, Black-on-Red and Red-on-Orange. These people lived a somewhat sedentary, congregational, agrarian lifestyle affording them the time needed to paint artistic designs and motifs in bowl interiors and on the surfaces of mugs.  For me, the most challenging facet of this culture's ceramics has been mastering, in the most authentic fashion, a firing atmosphere creating clean whites and robust blacks. 

 

 

This journey has and continues to be all about the three C's; Curiosity, Creativity, and Challenge.  The successful reproduction of a prehistoric vessel using only authentic materials, techniques and firing practices is my objective.  Discovering insights only available to one who has walked in their ancient tracks, is my reward.      

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Dismal River