Those who have traveled in the Southwest have seen Indian potters using their native clays for making graceful pottery jars. Marie Martinez of San Ildefonso is considered the best potter of the Southwest. Her husband, Julian, now dead, painted the designs. They are famous for their polished black ware with dull-finished decorations.
Plate XXIV: The potter uses a saucer-shaped mold, called a "puki," to form the base of the bowl and to make turning easier. She sets one jar aside to let the walls harden. The bowl is shaped with the hands and "kajepes," curved sections of gourd rind. The bowl shrinks away from the puki as it dries. When the vessel is leather hard, it is polished with a round pebble. The painter uses brushes made from the fiber of yucca leaves. He paints a design on the bowl with slip. The slip design is not polished. When fired, it remains dull.
PLATE XXVI. Dung cakes are piled over the pottery.
Dry cedar sticks are laid out on the ground and the jars are then stacked upside down over the wood. More wood is added. Notice the care with which Marie is stacking the wood, Plate XXV.
PLATE XXVII. Stirring the smoldering fire.
Pieces of tin are placed over the pottery and the cedar sticks. Then dung cakes are stacked over the mound. Plate XXVI.
Finally, a tubful of manure is piled on top of the homemade kiln. The fire is started and the smothering effect of the manure cuts off the oxygen and turns the iron oxide of the red clay black. Marie and Julian are stirring the smoldering fire, Plate XXVII.
PLATE XXVIII. The pieces are lifted out with pokers.
Plate XXVIII: After the pottery has been fired all day, each piece is uncovered, lifted out with pokers, and allowed to cool.
Notice the dull and polished surface of the designs in Plate XXIX. Her skill and artistic craftsmanship, coupled with use of materials native to her locality, have made Marie Martinez world famous.