Example of Inspiring
Example, Aguilar Pottery
Late Caddo Head Pot
My first 2 pots
THE BEGINNING OF MY JOURNEY INTO CADDO CULTURE AND POTTERY
I am not a writer, so please do not judge this as a contribution to literature. The grammer probably isn't going to be perfect either, just warning you! Microsoft Word, sadly enough, is going to be my only guide. I merely want to take an account of my discovery of the Caddo culture which I was so reluctant to be a part of for the larger part of my life up to this day, and more specifically, my venture into the world of Caddo pottery and art in the larger sense, from its history to its creation in modern times.
These journals will be the record of my discoveries, for the sake of history and to pass down the knowledge I gather, to the generations of Caddo people to come after me. It is for their benefit; truthfully they are the ones that will benefit most from it. I realized the need for this when I decided to go into pottery and learn the Caddo method of pottery making. I soon realized there was only ONE person that knew how, Jereldine Redcorn. Though she will be the wealth of knowledge I need to get started and get me into Caddo Pottery, I want to record and demonstrate for people on down the road, my path, and then our method for which to create the pottery of our ancestors so that it stands for all time, rather than become the lost way that Jeri had to rediscover it for us all.
For the time being, as of this recording the website on which I will store these journals for public consumption will be www.caddopottery.com. But if I know anything about the internet, being a webdesigner, I know nothing is for long. So it should not be considered the journals of that particular website, rather, the collection of journals and documentation known as "Caddo Pottery. History and Culture. Past and Present." In these journals I will do my best to provide an accurate representation of the history of the Caddo people as it pertains to the creation of pottery and its inclusion of all the different "tribes" of the Caddo people, the different regions, and styles by providing documentation and references, historical sources, and any and all interviews that I might be able to conduct.
As a child my family would take me on vacations to the southwest: New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, almost every year during the summer for school break. We visited places like Old Town, New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Durango, Colorado, Mesa Verde, Colorado, Sedona, Arizona, Tlaquepaque, Arizona and many other places. I grew fond of the culture of the southwest, particularly as it pertained to art. I was an artist growing up, drawing and painting feverishly partly for myself, but partly to please my teachers of art. My art was definitely influenced by the southwest's style, which was definitely influenced by its culture and history surrounding the Native Americans and Pueblo Indians. I remember going on trips making notes of what would be cool to try to mimic or create when I got home. It was inspiring. Mimic here is a key word.
Later on in life, after getting married, we went on a vacation to the southwest along the same familiar routes and I realized that I loved the sculpture and the pottery. I started really taking a look at the Pueblo pottery and the stylized sculpture from the independent artists that displayed their work in the many galleries. Again, I started taking notes and making scribbles of things I would love to create when I got home. Though I never realized any of those ideas, I was definitely inspired. Could I have started creating something immediately I surely would have. Life seems to have other ideas for you. It's not necessarily that I never got around to it; it's more like there were more pressing matters or financial things to work out before I could start "playing in the mud." I discovered early on that art is a luxury, so it's the last to come and the first to go. I might like to strive to make it more than that, for me.
I had not created any art, drawing, painting, sculpture or otherwise since college. It had been almost 10 years now. I felt like I had lost touch with any inspiration to create art. I questioned why there was no inspiration anymore, no desire to create any art. I liked building things, but artistic expression, it was not there anymore. Finally this year we went on another vacation and I was inspired even more. We had just moved out onto our own property with 2 acres of land with a creek and trees, and I felt it was the perfect place to start working on my art. I made note of every pot I came across, Acoma, Zuni, Ildefonso, and many others. I asked many questions and started researching the way to create these works of art by myself, for my very own. I looked into how they made the clay. I looked into how they formed the pots. I looked into how they decorated them, and how they painted them with boiled beeweed. I researched how they burnished the pots to a fine polish. I researched how they fired the pots using semi-traditional methods of pit and smoke firing. There were so many questions, I started learning quickly from many different resources. I bought some clay, and some Rocky Mountain beeweed, and gathered wood. I wanted to start right away.
Well. I never started. Something plagued me. I could not bring myself to make a space for my pottery and actually start sculpting something, anything. It wasn't important to me. It didn't matter very much. I didn't know why. After being so inspired, I didn't know why I was so indifferent now. There was a new game out I wanted to play, and Barbie likes to watch the new shows on TV. This or that. Just ways to pass the time and ignore that nagging in me that wanted to start my art back up again and create something special. Well that was just it. It would have been cool to make Pueblo Indian pots. Cool. Pretty. But not special. As a matter of fact, I thought to myself, they would merely be "knock-offs" of real pueblo Indian artists. Replicas. I'm not a Pueblo Indian. I might as well not even be Indian to them when compared to the awesome history and culture they possess to create such great and meaningful works of art that are their voice and their record that will preserve forever their people. That was it. I realized I had no voice. I had no reason to create art. Certainly my life was full and rich already, certainly busy enough, and I thought I had enough creative outputs, so to create sculpture without any reason, without any voice, well. That seemed empty.
So I posed the question, did the Caddo's make pottery? I am Caddo. Creating pottery would only have meaning to me personally if it was Caddo Pottery. I thought to myself, I wonder if we ever made pottery, surely we did, it seems like most ancient or older societies made some form of pottery. I thought breifly, even if we did, because I've never heard of it, it had to be crude, miniscule, unskilled, insignificant, or surely it wouldn't be rich in depth, style, form, or historic significance. Nothing like the pueblos, I thought. So I started reseaching... I had no idea. The truth was the complete opposite. I had no idea what the Caddo people created and were known for creating. How would I have known? I felt like there was now way of knowing about this because I grew up unattached to my culture or tribe. However, another truth is that hardly any Caddos know about the wealth of their ceramic history. Apparently we created an enormous breadth of finely skilled pottery. I instantly wondered if they taught all the Caddo people this, or anyone at all. Apparently there are many many museums with collections of ancient Caddo pottery. Apparently there are collectors with detailed knowledge of verifying authentic Caddo pottery. Jeri told me there are museums in Europe with our ancestor's pottery, furthermore she recently had a gallery showing in Germany. The ancient pottery was traded during colonization of North America. Apparently the pottery of the Caddo homelands was some of the most refined and sought after pottery in all of the land at the peak of their civilization. I wondered where all this skill went, and if anyone was left that knew how to create it. I wondered where all our culture and the history surrounding it went, and if it was lost. I searched some more. I wanted the information immediately. I would have loved to go down to the bookstore or library, but I live in Ada, Oklahoma. There are no bookstores, unless you consider Hastings a real bookstore. Even so, they probably wouldn't have anything on Caddo pottery, that alone history. The library here might be a good reference but it's a long shot. I realized this was going to be a hard search. I ended up searching and searching on Google. It actually didn't take long to find out about Jereldine Redcorn (*1.1). Apparently she posed a lot of the same questions I had, and alone set out one day and revived the tradition of Caddo pottery. She had done so much research with archeologist and museums, and historic accounts, books and books, to figure out, on her own, how to create pottery like our ancestors. Well now I knew. I had found my calling and found my voice. I was a Caddo Indian and I was going to help revive the traditions and history of Caddo Pottery so that it could be carried on and not lost. For the first time in my life I felt like I really had a reason to create art, and a voice behind which to inspire it. This would be something real, and something meaningful. I wanted to talk to her right away of course. I have learned that I have no patience, and with that realization I thought to myself, learning to create clay, pots and firing the correct way, even this whole process, is going to require a lot of patience. So I braced myself. I composed an email to Jeri and wrote a long descriptive message about how I wanted to be a Caddo potter and learn the ways. For some reason I was skeptical that she would be pleased or excited in any way about my inquires. She didn't reply at first. I, being from the web world, and so inpatient, thought to myself, oh she doesn't want to respond. I told my family about everything I had discovered only to find out that my mother actually met Jeri. As a matter of fact, I found out that I was in some distant way related to her. A common saying among Caddo's is that we're all cousins, haha. While I looked for a phone number Jereldine replied to my email, very excited indeed at the prospect of another Caddo interested in learning how to create pottery and preserving the history and culture. She gave me her phone number and told me she was going to be at a tribal dance on the weekend. I was so relieved and excited at the same time. She was truly interested in helping me.
The following week I called up Jeri and found out that she was going to be in Ada to drop off some work and attend an artist's market. Little did she know that I lived in Ada so we set up a time to meet for lunch and talk. It was great. We had lunch for almost 2 hours and talked about everything from history to her undertaking the revival of Caddo Pottery and her prestigious recognition for doing so. It seemed like there wasn't enough time. Too many subjects to cover and not enough time. We'll have to meet again so I can truly learn how to properly form and style the pots like they did so long ago.
*1.1: Jereldine Redcorn talked about on this website in detail: http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/tejas/clay/reviving.html and attached for preservation.
*1.2 Menden Exendine is now Menden Heather Exendine Ward after married.
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