(This Clay Sings)

The following "Free Verse" poetry was created in response to a request by the Heard Museum
to provide an oral narration of the " Generations in Clay" exhibit
Subsequently, the Santa Fe East Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico produced a publication titled
"QÖYAWAYMA, Hopi Potter." The verse text is organized in four parts and is illustrated with Ceramic creations:

A Measure of Life

A Measure of Spirit

A Measure of Earth

A Measure of Harmony

The Pottery, the clay is like life itself!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Potter breathes life into the lump of clay, ...
and the clay says "make me beautiful, make me what I am supposed to be..."

And so as the Potter I talk to the clay at every step.
The clay becomes a living being, when I put it in my hand.
At birth the clay is without form, and so... flexible.

As I build my pot, a child begins to form...
and like a child the pot is still pliable and not yet completely formed.

I add more life-giving clay to my pot, and it grows.
And as with the formative years of youth, I tug and
pull at the clay, to provide the shaping that is so vital.

As with life's path itself, some pots emerge with a struggle...
and others with a smooth flow of energy...

Then, the final form emerges and begins to harden, still with rough spots...
my pot has reached adolescence.

And now my pot enters a most formative stage as it hardens and as the final finish is added.
Its shape has been determined... its useful capacity as a vessel becomes evident.

Finally, my pot is ready to face its greatest trial, the firing process; just as in life, it faces trial by fire.
The capability of the pot to survive is a witness to every potter's skill.

And again as in life, my pot is transformed by this fiery trial;
it is hardened, changed in appearance, and becomes vibrant
with color... obtaining harmonious beauty and life!

And even if this trial should detect a flaw, this flaw most often is known only to its creator.
So you see, the flaw should not take away from the overall form, beauty and essence of the vessel...
In the same way, a flaw in your own life, which often cannot be seen by others,
should not keep you from reflecting your overall form and beauty.

I hope that my pottery will have a long and useful life, giving enjoyment to many.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Potters are deeply impressed with the forms of pottery from our ancient past.
We are equally respectful of their designs.

As a potter I use impressions from them freely.
I know other potters do this too.
I believe that the ancient potters reflected what they saw,
and recorded their world for all time to see.

So our ancient potters were historians.
I must then consider another challenge....
what should the designs on my pottery reflect of today's world?

I have been pondering that question.
And so, even though I find myself living in today's modern world,
the song of beauty and harmony still echoes in these ancient pots.

Perhaps that is why many people are drawn to the pottery,
they are seeing a reflection of beautiful personalities from our past.
The inner spirit of these ancient ones lives on.

So I begin to realize that the more I create, the more my
creation becomes just one more thread in an ancient woven
pattern. As a potter I am content to become a part of that pattern.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We, the potters, are respectful of our clay.
I know that some of this clay may even contain the dust of my ancestors...
so how respectful I must be.

And I think, perhaps I too might become part of a vessel, some day!
What a thought... to become useful again and to reflect the Creator's beauty and love!
As I climb over the mesas and through the washes looking for clay,

I realize that there have been many before me who have taken the same steps
and have made the same search... and have seen the same beauty....
and I know that I am not alone in this search...

For I feel that I am one with the clay... one with my Creator...
one with every living thing.... even the grains of sand.

As I climb the mesas and walk the deserts, I find ancient broken pottery
left behind by our relatives, to remind us
that we have been in this land... a very long time.

There is broken pottery everywhere around us in this land called the Southwest,
so you see, I am at home, whether in the city, in the desert or on the mesas...

Sometimes these ancient potsherds are ground up fine like flour.
These ground up potsherds are added to the clay.
This gives the clay strength so that the pottery can survive its trials.
Our culture, like ancient ground up potsherds, is found at the core of our Indian life.
This gives us strength.

So when I again hold this material in my hand, made by the hands of my ancestors,
their essence lives again... and gives life to my pottery!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The potters whom I know seem to be imbued with common experiences and traits...
so we can often communicate without words...
even over the centuries.

Although each potter comes from a unique tribal heritage, there is a common ground...
at the root, each potter seems to reflect a patient spirit and harmony in life.
The clay is a slavish medium, you know, and requires undivided attention.
The undisciplined cannot survive as a potter.

I have been taught to let a pot be what it is going to be...
not to force it.
And I have learned by hard experience that the clay is unforgiving.
You cannot force or hurry the clay.

And if a pot is lost, I accept it with a humbled spirit, and go on.
You can experiment, but you can't disobey those unwritten rules of the clay world.

So too our ancient pottery pieces reflect a personality.
I pause, and study, quietly soaking up their essence.
As I do, I begin to gain a feeling about our ancient potters,
a reflection of their thought, their personality.

This reflection certainly influences my creative process.
During the creative process I am privileged to be present,
watching as the unseen hands and the gift of the Creator's energy, flows into my work.

For this I am deeply thankful.

Do I pray when forming pots? Certainly!

Al Qöyawayma