Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-Tigua Pottery
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-Tigua Pottery
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-Tigua Indian Reservation is the only Pueblo tribe located in the outskirts of El Paso, Texas. There are only a few Tigua tribal artist who make their own pottery. The Tigua pottery offered at The Eagle’s Path Marketplace is by Albert Alvidrez, a member of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-Tigua Indian Reservation. Albert works in all three forms of pottery making: wheel, ceramic cast and hand-built (coil) pottery.
The Style: Hand Built
The pottery is created using either a slab, pinch pot or hand-coiled free form technique. Local and/or commercial clays are used in this process. This is a labor-intensive process and requires up to three weeks to complete from start to finish. Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo does not have many potters that utilize this technique. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo-Tigua handmade pottery is highly collected due to its limited availability.
The Style: Wheel
Wheel or thrown pottery is made using local clays and formed by hand on a potter’s wheel. This technique is not used by many Native American potters. This is a very contemporary form of pottery making and has been adapted and incorporated in some of Albert’s works of art. At Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, this technique was widely used in the early 60’s and 70’s. In fact, Albert owns the original kick wheel used at the pottery shop located at the old Tigua Cultural Center.
The Style: Ceramic cast
Tigua ceramics are made using a pre-made mold. These beautiful works of art are appreciated because of the individual and hand-painted designs that give them their identity. While they originate out of a mold, the designs provide the character and identity. Styles and shapes come from handmade molds made by the family from original pieces or a general inventory carried at ceramic shops. This process requires the use of liquid clay slip that is poured into a form and allowed to set. After a period, the slip begins to harden on the exterior and set. The excess slip is poured out and the mold is opened to reveal the form. As it dries it will separate from the mold and the pieced will be taken out and set to dry. Once dry, the piece is prepared for painting.
There are many methods used to create the pottery, each with their own requirements. Once the pottery piece is formed and ready for painting, the piece will undergo the following phases:
The designs are hand-painted with either natural pigment and/or commercial underglazes relying only on the memory and skill of the artist. The pottery designs are a contemporary variation of traditional Pueblo designs. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Tigua) only produced undecorated utilitarian pottery like Isleta, Sandia, Taos and Picuris Pueblos historically. Pottery designs were introduced to Isleta, New Mexico by Laguna Pueblo right before the railroad era. In the late 60’s, members from Isleta and neighboring Pueblos traveled to Ysleta del Sur and introduced the pottery designs. The YSDSP pottery making revitalization has incorporated these designs. Albert uses his artistic expression to give his pottery a unique and personalized character.
The pottery is either fired in an open fire, or through an electric kiln. Albert and his immediate family are one of the very few YDSP artists that conduct open firings on the reservation. In this process, the pottery is placed in a container on a metal grate and wood is stacked around the pottery. It is set on fire and the pottery will fire as the wood burns and turns to ash. The pottery is then taken out and cleaned once the pots have cooled down. This process requires much coordination and ideal conditions. There is a higher possibility of pottery pieces breaking during this process and never reaching the “born” phase. It is common to find pottery having smoke clouds on the finished pieces. Many collectors enjoy these added character marks that enhance the personality of the pottery.
The other firing technique incorporates the use of a commercial kiln. The pottery is placed inside the electric kiln and fired for over 6 hours. Once the pieces are cooled off, they can be removed.