Born around 1860, Nampeyo was a Hopi-Tewa potter who lived on First Mesa, northeast of the Grand Canyon. She learned pottery from her maternal relatives as part of women’s daily work, and passed on her skills to her female descendants, many of whom are known today as artisan potters.
Nampeyo made undecorated pots for domestic use and decorated pots for trade, developing a distinctive personal style that utilized elements from traditional visual vocabularies. Nampeyo never signed her own pots and sold her eldest daughter Annie’s work alongside her own. Today, scholars distinguish between the works of Nampeyo and Annie based on stylistic differences.
In her later life, Nampeyo suffered from the eye disease trachoma, and by 1920 was nearly blind. Her pots from this period included texture, and were likely painted by relatives. She died in 1942, at the age of 82.
Photo: Nampeyo Decorating Pottery by Edward S. Curtis, 1900 (NAA INV 03334700, Photo Lot 59, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)