The pottery of Preston Duwyenie echoes the shifting sands of Hopi Pueblo laced with the silver ripples of a rare rainstorm.
Duwyenie is one of more than 1,000 artists who juried into the now-shuttered Santa Fe Indian Market. For the first time, the annual market will go virtual at swaia.org beginning on Aug. 1. Many of the artists glean more than half their annual income from the event.
Duwyenie says he’s busy working in his Santa Clara Pueblo studio with his wife Debra and preparing to launch his own website. His work currently can be found at King Galleries in Santa Fe and at kinggalleries.com.
The artist grew up in the Hopi Village of Hotevilla, Arizona, inundated with sand. For him, the textural quality of the land grew into a means of expression through the rippling lines of his clay vessels.
The Hopi people live in the desert region of the Colorado Plateau where water remains a scarce commodity. Duwyenie believes he is the only native potter using silver inlay in his work to represent this precious life blood.
“As a child, when it rains out there, there are areas where the water collects and there’s clay,”
he said. “As youngsters, we used to get handfuls of clay and mold it.
“The only waters we get are from the heavens. We were taught as youngsters to really revere what we have there.”
Today, he creates streamlined, flatted pots with minimal decoration, capturing the wind-blown sands. Delicately placed silver inlay spills across some; rounded pieces sprout figures of bears and quail on their lids.
His black mica, or “pregnant pot,” was inspired by the pregnancy and birth of his youngest daughter Megan. The vessel symbolizes the torso of a female carrying a child in the womb. The matte area on top boasts two terrace symbols: the front terrace represents the mountains; the back forms the clouds. The wavered rim symbolizes the skyline and the silver inlay duplicates rain clouds.
“The earth itself is the pregnant female form,” Duwyenie said. “The s
ilver inlay represents the male spirit.”
The artist says much of his inspiration comes from the ancient vessels found at the Sikyátki archaeological site near Hopi.
“The pots they made are a lot like these low-profile pots,” he said. “A lot of people call them flying saucer pots,” he added with a laugh. “I call them shoulder pots because the shoulder is wider than the pot itself.”
Duwyenie builds his vessels using the coil method. He usually fires them in a traditional outdoor firing. He uses a kiln if he wants to reduce surface fire clouds.
“Most of the mi
caceous pottery is fired outside,” he said. “The black color comes from the firing – we smother the fire and the carbon turns the color black.”
He adds the silver inlay after the firing.
“I visualize where the silver’s going to go,” he said. “The texture comes from the cuttlefish bone. I create a recess where the silver’s going to go.”
Duwyenie discovered both Indian Market and the Institute of American Indian Arts during a visit to New Mexico in 1978. He studied pottery with Otellie Loloma, wife of the famed jewelry artist Charles Loloma.
He begins his pottery with a spiritual practice.
“You do a communication with the earth,” he said. “It’s a reciprocal action when you present cornmeal. We offer that to the clay. We say prayers over the meal. Then we start to dig.”
Duwyenie estimates that Indian Market produces about 65% of his sales.
“We were saddened by (the cancellation),” he said, as he prepares for its online replacement.
“We’re still making ends meet,” he added. “We’re hopeful.”