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A “Chakoptewa Polychrome” Hopi Sikyatki

style pottery canteen with two macaw bird pictorials by Michael Peter Hawley, 1990

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Scottsdale, Arizona pottery artist Michael Peter Hawley (1948-2012) performed a pottery miracle of sorts, he singlehandedly figured out how to make the fabled Hopi “Sikyatki Polychrome” type of pottery (1375-1625 A.D.), one of the finest types of pottery ever made on the North American continent.

And he didn’t take any modern-day shortcuts either, he found and made all his own materials, obtaining his clay from an ancient Hopi clay source on Antelope Mesa, finding the proper local area minerals and plants from which to hand-grind his own paint pigments and locating and hand-digging the high temperature burning, difficult to ignite Lignite coal to obtain the proper firing temperature as well as figuring out how to build and use his own firing pit. It’s an almost miraculous achievement really and if you didn’t know he had actually done this you might never believe it.

To view a YouTube presentation of a 1980’s video of Michael making a Sikyatki-style pottery jar, please click here.

Two large scarlet macaws, a large Central American bird sacred to the Hopi are depicted facing each other against an overall background of finely applied brown splatter paint which is traditionally applied by taking an amount of the paint into the mouth and then sharply blowing it out through a reed tube to create the “splatter” effect which is exactly how Hawley did it here. After the canteen was painted, Hawley fired it perfectly with high-temperature coal causing the beautiful whitish-yellow firing “blushes” which can be clearly seen on the back of the canteen.

The canteen measures 9 1/4” in height, 8 1/2” in width at its widest point and 3” in depth. It is in completely pristine,

essentially as-new original condition with ho cracks, no chips, no restoration or overpaint. The canteen has a very nicely hand-cut leather thong hanging strap on it and it is properly signed with Michael Hawley’s adopted Hopi name of “Chakoptewa” on the back above his characteristic smoking Hopi pipe insignia and is dated “1990”. The canteen is only 30-some years old, but it looks absolutely ancient, just as it might have looked had it been created back in the Sikyatki period some four centuries ago.

You might say that it’s 375 years young.

Price $975

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Michael Hawley’s pieces are not in any way replicas or copies, they are true and distinct original works of ceramic art, done in the modern day using completely ancient methods and materials. The canteen is beautifully shaped in the flattened woman’s breast form characteristic of Sikyatki style pottery. Historic Hopi canteens have for centuries used various iterations of a woman’s breast shape to hold their vital, life-sustaining liquids. After shaping the vessel, Hawley carefully and finely stone polished it and then painted it with a unique original design drawing on traditional Sikyatki iconography and designs.

A modern-day re-creation of the so-called “Parrot Woman” mural excavated at the

closely-related to Hopi prehistoric Pottery Mound Pueblo site in New Mexico.

Photo source and © Thomas Baker