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Iris Nampeyo (ca. 1860–1942) was a Hopi - Tewa potter who lived on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. She received the English name Iris as an infant, but was better known by her Tewa name, Num-pa-yu, meaning "snake that does not bite".
She was born at Hano Pueblo, which is primarily made up of descendants of the Tewa tribe who fled west to Hopi lands after the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. Her mother, Ootca-ka-o was Tewa; her father Qots-vema, from nearby Walpi Pueblo, was Hopi.
Hopi people make ceramics painted with beautiful designs, and Nampeyo was eventually considered one of the finest Hopi potters. Nampeyo learned pottery making through the efforts of her paternal grandmother. In the 1870s, she made a steady income by selling her work at a local trading post operated by Thomas Keam. She became increasingly interested in ancient pottery form and design, recognizing them as superior to Hopi pottery produced at the time. Her second husband, Lesou (or Lesso) was employed by the archaeologist J. Walter Fewkes at the excavation of the prehistoric ruin of Sikyátki in the 1890s. Lesou helped Nampeyo find potsherds showing the old forms and Fewkes produced detailed illustrations of reconstructed pots.
Nampeyo developed her own style based on the traditional designs. Her work was purchased for the Smithsonian Institution and by collectors worldwide. In 1904 and 1907, she produced and sold pottery at the Grand Canyon lodge owned by the Fred Harvey Company. She and her husband traveled to Chicago in 1898 and 1910 to display her work.
Nampeyo began to lose her sight in 1925, but continued to form and shape pots by touch. These later pots were painted by members of her family, including her four daughters, who also became well-known potters. She worked with clay until her death in 1942.
Nampeyo's photograph was often used as a symbol of the Hopi people and, by the end of her life, she was drawing huge numbers of tourists to her workshop. Her influence led to a renewal of the pottery-making tradition among the Hopi and to the elevation of traditional pottery forms and decoration to an art form.
- Dillingham 14-15
- Various sources give either 1859 or 1860 as Nampeyo's birthdate.
- Wade Edwin L., Lea S. McChesney and Thomas Keam. "Historic Hopi Ceramics: The Thomas V. Keam Collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology".
- Dillingham, Rick. Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8263-1499-6.
- Graves, Laura. Thomas Varker Keam, Indian Trader. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8061-3013-X.
- Blair, Mary Ellen; Blair, Laurence R. (1999). The Legacy of a Master Potter: Nampeyo and Her Descendants. Tucson: Treasure Chest Books. ISBN 1-887896-06-6. OCLC 41666705.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nampeyo.|
- A Nampeyo Timeline, from the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona
- A Nampeyo Showcase, a display of some of Nampeyo's work
- Photographic Resources Guide to the North American Collection, Thomas Keam's Southwest Expedition
- Nampeyo - Hopi master potter