Native American Pueblo Pottery - C & D Gifts Native American Art, LLC What Are Some Characteristics Of Native American Art? – C & D Gifts Native American Art

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What Are Some Characteristics Of Native American Art?

Native American art encompasses the artwork created by indigenous people in North (including the Arctic), Central, and South America, spanning from the Lithic stage beginning in 18,000 BC up into the present. Much of the oldest Native American art was produced on plant and animal-based materials and has not survived the passage of time as well as contemporaneous stone tips, tools, and petroglyphs (rock paintings). Nevertheless, many artifacts remain that are exceedingly old, and modern Native American art continues to be produced. The demand for these beautiful and unique pieces in museums and private collections has made Native American art renowned across the world. If you are interested in honoring the traditions and culture of these people by becoming a collector yourself, you’ll find some interesting facts about the characteristics of Native American art in this article to help get you started.

Differences And Similarities Of Native American Art Across Cultures 

There were several nations, tribes, and groups present in the Americas for millennia with unique cultures. This is evident in the artwork they have left behind or continue to make, but there are a lot of similarities, as well. Some of the characteristics of Native American art that transcend cultural and geographical differences are the artists all strive to create a sense of harmony, or order, in their works. The use of geometric shapes and symbols, animals, and even abstraction also was a means of communication to their gods. Characteristics of Native American art include a majority of the items created in ancient times being for practical purposes. An artist was simply a skilled craftsman and might be commissioned to create ritualistic artifacts for worship or medicine if necessary. It was only in exceedingly rich societies where an artist might work solely in the profession of creating artistic products.

The difference in mediums that Native American art was applied to is shown most significantly in sedentary vs. nomadic groups. The lifestyle of the nomadic peoples carried less and only what was easily transportable, and items like elaborately decorated buffalo skins are one of the characteristics of Native American art those particular tribes have become famous for. Tribes that built villages and cities, like the Pueblos, are much better known for making artwork on baskets and pottery. Beginning with the expansion of Europeans into the Americas, a lot of the traditional ways of life for Native Americans changed or ended altogether. Today, the rich history of Native American art continues through artwork on baskets, pottery, blankets, beadwork, and jewelry as a way to connect to their ancestors and provide income for them and their families. 

Characteristics Of Native American Art: Using Local Materials

Native American artists relied on the materials around them to work with. This is evident, for example, with Northwest Coast societies that constructed intricate totem poles from the abundance of wood, or the Pueblo Indians that heated clay into pots and elaborately decorated them in the process. Characteristics of Native American art, in fact, show a masterful ability to manipulate natural materials into all manners of artistic expression, using everything from birch bark to shells to gemstones, to great effect.

We specialize in many forms of Native American art at C & D Gifts but are especially passionate about pottery. The market for Native American pottery is similarly enthusiastic, and the Pueblos of New Mexico is one of the richest sources of magnificent pieces - both old and new - that collectors seek. If you are just becoming interested in pottery from the Puebloans of New Mexico, it will benefit you to learn some useful information as well as terms and phrases used within this niche of Native American art before you buy.

Modern Pottery Crafted Using New And Old Techniques

There are many amazingly talented Native American artists here in New Mexico using a mixture of new and ancient techniques when crafting pottery to be sold to collectors. Some of the terms that denote them and their styles are as follows:

  • Modern Slip-Cast - This technique uses modern pottery manufactured by a ceramics company and repurposed as a vessel for the artist to decorate. These vessels are not handmade as they would have been by Native Americans in the past but are produced by pouring molten clay into a mold. Characteristics of Native American art applied to slip-cast pottery include sometimes elaborate decorations with paint, as well as being hand etched or etched with horsehair. The horsehair technique is a traditional method that involves heating the pot to a high temperature and throwing the horsehair on so that it burns and produces unique patterns. Slip-cast pottery is generally less expensive than other Pueblo clay pots, but can be highly collectible in certain situations.
  • Traditional Hand-Coiled - A more traditional though time-consuming method is hand-coiled pottery. Clay is rolled by hand into ropes (or coils) and placed around a base successively higher, pinching the strands together as the artist goes until the finished shape of the pottery is produced. It is then left to become dry before being carved and/or sanded. Wet clay is then applied and the vessel is polished with a smoothed river stone, likely one that has been passed down from generation to generation. Characteristics of Native American art using the hand-coiled pottery method include a shiny finish with no visible markings left behind from the stone, as well as typically high prices to purchase these time-consuming and exquisitely crafted pieces.

C & D Gifts

Native American art is a testament to the unique cultures and societies that have lived in the Americas for thousands of years. Artists still carry on the rich traditions of their ancestors by producing exquisite work today. If you have any questions or want to browse our amazing collection, you can do so at

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