Lonnie Vigil


Lonnie Vigil (Tewa/Nambé) is a traditional potter.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Lonnie chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Nambé jar

Nambé jar
c. 1900
10 x 12 in. (25.4 x 30.5 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Prayers and Blessings

Of the number of pieces in the SAR collection that are from our village, Nanbé Owingeh, I chose this one because it is a functional piece. It is a jar used to carry water. The base is concave so that the jar could be carried from the water source on a person’s head. This piece served a purpose in the community.

I was also attracted to this jar because it is a black burnished piece. Today many people are aware of black pieces from the Pueblos of San Ildefonso and Santa Clara, but there are also examples of black pottery from a number of other Tewa villages, including ours. Considering the technology and tools available around the turn of the twentieth century, the potter did a fine job of burnishing and shaping this piece.

I love the shape; it is beautiful. These types of jar were made for function, of course, but also—because of the way in which they were going to be used, and the love of the person making the pottery—they were created in very graceful forms and shapes. I have always liked a narrow base and then a bulbous body and a nice flared rim. The rim reminds me of some of the work that I myself have done (see, for example, pp. 172–73), and it is interesting: unconsciously, I chose to make this kind of shoulder without having seen this particular piece.

I believe that this pot may have been made by my great-grandmother. Her Christian name was Perfilia Anaya Pena, and she potted probably from 1865/70 until maybe the 1930s. She had other pieces in her home, which I did not get to see because I was born in May 1949 and she passed away by August of that year. My mother and her older sisters, who grew up when my great-grandmother was still making pottery, said she had large storage jars in which she kept food.

From what my mother and my aunts said, in my great-grandmother’s house there were four large storage jars that sat on the floor next to an area where there were some grinding stones. In some of the storage jars was dried wild spinach. The way my mom described it, they would go and harvest the wild spinach when it was ready. They would blanch the spinach and shape it into little cakes, which were then air-dried. When they were completely dry, the spinach cakes were stacked inside the large storage jars. And that is why this jar reminds me of my great-grandmother. I cannot be absolutely certain, but I think she could easily have made this piece.