Exhibitions: Small Wonders from the American Collections

Hopi tile

Ceramics have a long-standing tradition in the southwestern pueblos dating from 7500 B.C.E. to the present day. Originally all pottery production was for Native use, and specific shapes, designs, and colors can be attributed to specific pueblos. The Hopi—Pueblo people living in the southwestern United States—began making tiles for decoration in the nineteenth century. Their designs mirrored the abstracted motifs used on their pottery. By the early twentieth century, especially after the advent of the Santa Fe railroad in the 1870s, non-Native merchants and collectors passing through the region created a demand for portable Native tokens. Entrepreneurial Native potters made small bowls and decorative tiles using traditional Hopi and Pueblo designs to fulfill this commercial opportunity.