Debbie Brown is an accomplished young artist from one of Acoma’s most respected pottery making families, the Garcias. Her mother, Sarah Garcia, was well known for creating beautiful designs and especially innovative forms. Debbie’s grandmother, Jessie Garcia, is remembered for keeping alive two old Acoma styles: corrugated ware and large storage jars. By watching these potters at home daily as a young girl, and by helping them with small taskes, Debbie learned the many complex phases of their art and the special knowlwdge that lie behind their distinctive work.
Grateful to her teachers Sarah and Jessie, Debbie carries on their styles today. In particular, she enjoys making as her grandmother did, unusually large jars – even to a height of twenty inches. She finds great pleasure as well, in painting her mother’s designs, adapting them in her own way. One of her personal favorites is the deer. Debbie’s graceful patterns and clean brush stokes have attracted the eye of many a collector and won her numerous awards. Her sisters, Donna Chino and Goldie Hayah, are also potters of quality, heirs to the fine teachings of Sarah and Jessie.
The Potting Process
The pottery Debbie makes is traditional Acoma pottery; it is done entirely by hand, without the aid of molds or a potter’s wheel, and uses only natural materials gathered locally. The long process is truly a labor of love for Mother Earth. Always acting with prayers in heart, the traditional potter digs the clay from a mine in the nearby mountains, cleans it of impurities, and grinds it to a fine powder. Adding ground potsherds as temper, she mixes it with water and kneads it thoroughly to remove air bubbles. Patiently and skillfully, she forms the pot by building up a series of coils and shaping it outward with tools of gourd and pottery pieces. After thinning the pot by scraping off excess clay, she applies a solution of white clay (called a “slip”) and polishes it to a soft shine with a smooth river rock. Finally, using a yucca leaf for a brush and mineral paints for colors, she paints her pot. When fired, it comes to life with the colors of Mother Earth and the designs inspired by nature.