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Native American Pottery and Icons


William and Viola Pabst of Galveston began acquiring Native American art during the 1930s and 1940s. The Pabsts collected an assortment of jewelry, textiles, kachina dolls, and pottery made by Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and Arizona.

In 1986, the couple donated their collection to the Rosenberg Library. Displayed here is a selection of Pueblo pottery given by the Pabsts.


Traditional Pueblo pottery is most often made by women, although men sometimes help decorate and fire the clay vessels. Pueblo artisans do not use potting wheels or modern kilns. Instead, they shape their pottery by hand and fire it in earthen pits.

Pottery technique, style, design, and color varies among different groups of Pueblo Indians.


Blackware is one of the most distinctive types of Pueblo pottery. It is characterized by its highly polished black luster. Some blackware vessels feature carved designs or matte black painted details, but others have no decoration.

Black-on-black pottery was developed by Maria Martinez (1884 - 1980) and her husband, Julian, around 1920. The couple lived in the San Ildefonso Pueblo near Santa Fe, New Mexico. They sold their pottery by the roadside and in local shops. Black-on-black pottery attributed to Maria and Julian Martinez is popular among contemporary collectors.


Polychrome pottery has a painted or glazed surface of three or more colors. This type of pottery is especially common among Hopi Indians. Nampeyo of Hano was one of the most well-known Pueblo potters from the early twentieth century. She decorated her vessels with ancient designs copied from prehistoric pottery fragments that were excavated at archaeological sites.

Nampeyo’s daughter, Fannie Nampeyo (1900 - 1987), learned the art of pottery making from her mother and became a respected potter in her own right. Fannie Nampeyo’s work was exhibited and sold at art shows throughout the Southwest, and today it is prized by collectors.