Al Qöyawayma

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Al Qöyawayma
United States
Occupation(s)Potter and sculptor

Alfred H. Qöyawayma is a Hopi potter and bronze sculptor. He was born in Los Angeles on February 26, 1938.[1] Qöyawayma is also a mechanical engineer who has worked in the development of inertial guidance systems[2] and a co-founder of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.[3]

Early life[edit]

Qöyawayma, the only child of Mayme and Alfred (originally Poliyumptewa), was raised in the San Fernando Valley and attended Van Nuys High School.[4] He is a 1961 graduate of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.[5][6] He has a master's degree in engineering from the University of Southern California. His aunt was the noted educator and potter Polingaysi Qöyawayma.[7]

Artistic career[edit]

A 1983 vessel by Al Qöyawayma on display at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California

His artistic work incorporates "crosscultural elements" and a "minimalist" style.[8] Many of his pots include representations of maize, which is a sacred part of Hopi religion.[2][8][9] "For the people of the mesas corn is sustenance, ceremonial object, prayer offering, symbol, and sentient being unto itself. Corn is the Mother in the truest sense that people take in the corn and the corn becomes their flesh, as mother milk becomes the flesh of the child."[10]

Qöyawayma finds the clay and processes it himself. He uses a spiral coiling technique, and fires his pots at a "very high temperature" which "results in vitrification of the clay which creates a smooth and polished surface." He uses coal to produce these high temperatures, which is a technique long used by his Coyote clan of the Hopi.[9]

Qöyawayma learned traditional Hopi ceramics and legends from his aunt Polingyasi Elizabeth Qöyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White). She is the author of a book published in 1964 called No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman's Struggle to Live in Two Worlds[11] in which she wrote: "Evaluate the best there is in your own culture and hang onto it, for it will be foremost in our life; but do not fail to take the best from other cultures to blend with what you already have. Don't set limitations on yourself"[5]

Pottery expert Lee M. Cohen has written that "Nothing quite like Al Qoyawayma's pottery has ever existed before, though his work could not possibly assume its sublime form without the artist's profound appreciation for the ways of his Hopi ancestors."[12]

Space pottery[edit]

In 2002, astronaut John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw tribe, took one of Qöyawayma's ceramic pots into orbit aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-113, which docked with the International Space Station. That pot, described as a "miniature Sikyatki-style seed jar with corn motif" is now in the collection of the National Museum of the American Indian.[2]

Ceramics training and consulting[edit]

Qöyawayma received a Fulbright fellowship to assist the Maori people of New Zealand rebuild their tradition of ceramic pottery making.[5] He has consulted with the Smithsonian Institution on ancient Sikyátki ceramics.[5]



  1. ^ Klein, Barry T. (2005). Reference encyclopedia of the American Indian. Todd Publishing. ISBN 978-0-915344-77-2.
  2. ^ a b c McMaster, Gerald; Trafzer, Clifford E. (2008). Native Universe: Voices of Indian America. National Geographic Books. ISBN 978-1-4262-0335-0.
  3. ^ "American Indian Science & Engineering Society: 2008 Annual Report" (PDF). American Indian Science and Engineering Society. 2008. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 3, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  4. ^ Reidel, Mija. "Oral history interview with Al Qöyawayma, 2010 Mar. 30-31". Archives of American Art Oral History Program, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  5. ^ a b c d Davis, Lynn Pyne (August 2002). "Al Qöyawayma". SouthwestArt: The Fine Art of Today's West.
  6. ^ "Cal Poly to Confer Three Honorary Doctorate Degrees at Commencement June 15, 16". University News & Information. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. May 30, 2013. Archived from the original on August 21, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  7. ^ Davis, Lynn Pyne (January 1, 1970). "Al Qöyawayma". Southwest Art. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Leduff, Charlie (September 19, 1999). "ART/ARCHITECTURE; Indian Art You Won't See in the Casinos". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b c Sato, Kelcy (2011). Gift of the Gods: Exploring Maize, Culture and Indigenous Art in the Americas. Hearst Art Gallery, St. Mary's College of California. ISBN 978-1-886091-00-9.
  10. ^ Dennis Wall and Virgil Masayesva, "People of the Corn: Teachings in Hopi Traditional Agriculture, Spirituality, and Sustainability", American Indian Quarterly, Summer/Fall 2004, pages 435–453.
  11. ^ Qöyawayma, Polingaysi; Carlson, Vada F. (1977). No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman's Struggle to Live in Two Worlds. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-0439-1.
  12. ^ Cohen, Lee M. (1993). Art of clay: timeless pottery of the southwest. Clear Light Publishers. ISBN 978-0-940666-19-1.

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