Stephanie Riley

Acoma Pueblo

Curator Stephanie Riley is an Acoma woman, mother, and potter. She is also Registrar for Cultural Projects at the Indian Arts Research Center, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe.​


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Stephanie chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Acoma jar with parrot

Acoma jar
c. 1900
Clay and paint
13 x 17 in. (33 x 43.2 cm)
Collection Vilcek Foundation


Shaawitya is Keres for “parrot.” Although parrots are not native to New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo is known for the parrot design. Our potters have been painting parrots on their vessels for a long time as a way of bringing these colorful birds to Acoma. I always love seeing the different variations each potter paints. Some parrots are bold, with big curved beaks, while others are simple designs with flowing feathers; even the types of flower vary. Each design reflects the unique individual or family style of the painter.

All the design elements here are what you would expect to see on a pot with a parrot design: the parrots are in slips of orange and red, and have big crown feathers; the flowers are also painted in orange and red slips; and on the lower half of the design area there are two bands of geometric motifs, which could be interpreted as older variations of rainbow bands. Today, you will usually see rainbow bands painted in a curved, more commonly recognized bow-like shape, with parrots above and below the rainbow. The parrots are usually perched on part of a plant or flower. All these design elements emphasize the beauty of nature and are connected to water, which Pueblo people are always praying for. This jar is an excellent example of an older parrot design and a beautiful vessel overall.