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One of Dextra’s old pottery polishing stones discovered by her as a young woman in the ruins of the ancestral Hopi village of Sikyatki , an ancient Hopi pottery-making center on the eastern slope of First Mesa. Dextra used this stone in polishing her pottery for many years and she eventually gifted it to her longtime close friend and biographer, the distinguished Santa Fe Indian Arts dealer and scholar, Martha H. Struever, author of “Painted Perfection; The Pottery of Dextra Quotskuva Nampeyo.” Both Marti Struever and Dextra were longtime friends and colleagues of ours as well, and years later, Marti graciously gifted this very special polishing stone of Dextra’s to us in her honor.

Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo demonstrating pottery-firing, Polacca, AZ, 1998.

Photo by Addison Doty, “Painted Perfection”, Wheelwright Museum, 2001

An extraordinary large Hopi black-on-cream pottery jar by Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo, c. 1980’s

DEXTRA QUOTSKUYVA NAMPEYO (1928-2019) is the full artistic heir of her Great-Grandmother, the renowned Hopi pottery Matriarch, Nampeyo of Hano. Other Nampeyo family members such as Nampeyo’s several daughters, Annie, Nellie and Fannie were also distinguished potters who made many beautiful ceramics to be sure as did Nampeyo’s first grand-daughter, Rachel Namingha Nampeyo, Dextra’s Mother, but it was Dextra herself who seems to have most completely captured and expressed the unbridled and exuberant spirit of innovation and experimentation which Nampeyo’s work so uniquely and vividly demonstrates; of working within a defined tradition yet breaking all the boundaries to re-define something as completely one’s own.

Dextra’s pottery is immediately recognizable even from a considerable distance and the closer you get to it the more distinctively hers it becomes; it exhibits a willingness to experiment with shapes, designs, colors, paint, lack of paint, surface, polishing, carving, firing, there was no aspect of the pottery making process which Dextra left untouched and unexplored in her search for originality and distinctiveness.

Over the course of her long life and career, Dextra was awarded almost every artistic award and honor it is possible for someone in her position to receive. In 1994, she was proclaimed an Arizona Living Treasure. In 2001, The Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe organized a 30-year retrospective exhibition of her work with an accompanying scholarly catalog, and in 2004 the organization which sponsors the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, SWAIA, awarded her its Lifetime Achievement award.

“I think the pottery took over me and I can’t get away from it. That’s for sure. Clay is in my system. It’s all the time and you’re happy with your pots.”

-Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo

This wonderful large black-on-cream jar is highly distinctive in a number of important ways. First, is the lovely graceful shape with the widest point at the mid-body tapering sharply and smoothly downwards to the base and tapering likewise upwards to the neck. The painted design field is interestingly contained only within the exact upper half of the vessel and is very sharply and abruptly defined so. The quality of the painting here can be described as being nothing short of remarkable, the precision displayed in the nature and complexity of the painted designs is incomparable, it is almost impossible to comprehend a human hand hold a yucca brush executing something so divinely rendered. (See Evan Maurer’s statement below to this effect.)

The overall design is a unique modern day Dextra-style distillation and interpretation of ancient 15th-16th Century Hopi Sikyatki-style pottery and painted mural motifs with four large stylized bird and feather figures completely encircling the body of the jar in a swirling swooping diagonal direction around the jar’s neck; the sense of dynamism and “motion” here is palpable. Notably, the painting on the entire jar was deliberately done in an organic black paint painted directly over the tannish cream-colored clay body with no use of a second red paint color and with no employment of an underlying background slip. This single color treatment emparts a subtle and extremely harmonious effect.

The very fine, subtle “stipling” paint application technique which Dextra used in numerous parts of the design emparts the visual illusion of an additional color, but that is not the case. According to Martha H. Struever in “Painted Perfection; The Pottery of Dextra Quotskuya”, Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, 2001, Dextra went to great lengths to locate various different-colored Hopi clay sources to use for specific effect. “She utilizes several local geologic sources to obtain the raw clays that fire yellow, orange, pink, red and maroon depending upon their iron, manganese and titanium oxide content.” (pp. 20). Last, but hardly least, the overall stone polishing of the vessel is so extraordinarily well-done and so evenly applied that the entire jar seems suffused from the inside with a lovely warm glow. The “feel” to the touch of the fingers of this stone-polished surface is one of the smoothest, softest textures imaginable.

“This large Dextra is gorgeous. It's perfect in every way, remarkable polish, superb composition, masterful linework, and a sculptural form that is beyond sensual. It’s the greatest Dextra that I have ever seen.”

-Noted Hopi pottery scholar and author, Edwin L. Wade, Ph.D.

The jar measures a very good-sized 11 3/4” in diameter and is 8 1/2” in height making it one of the largest Dextra Quotskuyva jars that we know of. The jar is in excellent original condition, with no cracks, no chips and no restoration or overpainting evident under UV-light examination. The jar is properly signed “Dextra” on the bottom along with her customary Corn Clan hallmark. This magnificent jar is a masterpiece in every way done by a master artist and craftsman. It is a singular testament to Dextra’s exceptional abilities and her distinguished personal and family legacy as being one of the finest Pueblo potters in recorded history. As such, it is deserving and worthy of a hallowed and honored place in any Museum or distinguished private collection.


“Dextra is aptly named as the Latin, “dextra” refers to the right hand and to qualities of skillfulness and dexterity. These are certainly the attributed she brings to her beautiful creations. Her talent lies both in the expert manner in which she  maintains tradition, and in the innovation of form and design that have broadened the aesthetic horizons of this ancient art. Dextra Quotskuyva has written an important chapter in the continuing story of a people and their culture.”

-Evan M. Maurer, Director, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, “Painted Perfection”, Wheelwright Museum, 2001, pp. 8