Lonnie Vigil


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


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Lonnie chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Picuris jar

Picuris jar
Micaceous clay
12 ⅝ x 12 ¼ in. (32.1 x 31.1 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research


I have loved pottery since I was a child, and this piece takes me back to that time. We lived across the road from my aunt Quah Povi, who was the eldest daughter of my great-grandmother Perfilia. I remember going to her house to help her because she lived by herself. I noticed that there were always pots on the stove—cooking pots and serving bowls. I remember that she gave me a very small plate, which I kept for the longest time. At my mom’s house we had a buffet that belonged to my paternal grandmother, and I had my little plate on display there.

I remember that interest in pottery—loving it and considering it to be so beautiful, never imagining that I myself would one day be making pots. It never occurred to me that this is something I would be doing. I was born in 1949, and by the time I was ten years old there was essentially no pottery-making going on in Nanbé Owingeh, as far as I was aware. The decline of pottery-making and of other aspects of our culture has been heavily influenced by US government policies and by Western culture in general.

When we create work, it gives us joy while we are making it. But, in reality, we are creating it for someone else, although we do not yet know who. It feels good when a pot meets the person it is meant to be with. Sometimes a pot does not find that person right away—it may take a while for that person to come along—but I always tell each pot as I am making it, “I’m making you into beauty, and wherever you go, I want you to bless that home and take care of the people there. Bring good things to them. I’m making you not to give you away, but someday someone’s going to come, and they’re going to want you.” In truth, I made the pot for that person. I did not know it, and neither did they.

Pottery-making is so important and valuable. The knowledge of sacred materials that is passed down between generations in the village is essential, as is the sacredness of the materials. At the beginning of the process, we say a prayer and ask for permission to take the materials. In fact, the entire process of pottery-making is a prayer in action.