Since the Anglo-introduced practice of identifying an object’s maker by signature was not a custom among Hopi until the 20th century, anonymous masterworks abound in Hopi art. But this is not to say that without a name we cannot identify the strong persona behind lasting works. The distinctive hand of a particular artist can often be discerned in ceramics dating back as far as the 14th century. The very concept of “signature” must be broadened in order to understand the art of Hopi, since it need not mean only a signed name. Geometric glyphs repeated on ancient food bowls for example, may denote the individual, family, or clan signatures of their maker. And beyond the signature of glyph, pattern, or design, lies the subtler realm of characteristic gesture and emotion, of individual physical makeup and experience that are telegraphed in the arc of scribed line, the choice of color, the weight or lightness, the urgency or humor of expression – all of which are inseparable from the individual maker.
Surface Color & Texture of a Hopi Pot
Density and pureness of color and the adhesive quality of pigment are highly regarded. Both prehistorically and today, a potter wanted the underlying surface color and texture of the vessel to emerge through a painted design. Traditionally this is accomplished by sponging, splattering, daubing or blowing on the paint. What isn’t desirable is watery pigment unevenly applied.