Building Pots

Woodland and Mississippian Methods

The beginning Catawba potter faces many problems, one of which is learning a wide variety of construction techniques that follow a fixed number of steps. So well established are the methods followed by the Catawba that the Indians refer to the work as building pots. Those familiar with aboriginal American pottery-making methods and who have seen the Catawba at work are aware of the antiquity of the Catawba way. So conservative is the tradition that the results obtained today are almost identical to prehistoric burnished southeastern pottery (Fewkes 1944:108). The basic process is completed by hand through the use of three methods: coils, rings, and morsel modeling.

BASIC VESSEL—BUILDING WITH ROLLS

Recognizing its importance, Harrington recorded the cooking pot building method as practiced by the Brown family:

This done, the clay was divided into little wads, which Mrs. Brown laid upon a plank and rolled out into long cylinders with her hand. . . . Then deftly shaping a little disk of clay to serve as the bottom of the future vessel, she laid it upon another piece of board and coiled upon it one of her clay rolls, . . . which she pinched fast with wet fingers. Another and another roll followed, each one pinched fast to the last until a rude pot form was made. . . . Moistening her mussel shell, the potter began to blend the coils on the outside, always smoothing the clay upward. . . . While smoothing any part of the wall of the embryo jar she supported it on the inside with her other hand. Still using the shell, and from time

Figure 9. Basic pot made with rolls.

  1. The potter takes up a morsel of clay, forms it into a ball. The potter makes certain no air holes remain in the clay.
  2. The potter flattens the ball into a disk, which is to form the bottom of the vessel.
  3. A number of rolls are constructed by the potter.
  4. The rolls are stacked on the vessel's base. The seams are placed in different places so the potter will attain strong walls for the vessel.
  5. The potter takes a jar lid or a bit of coconut shell and obliterates the exterior seams between the rolls.
  6. As a last step, the potter works the interior of the pot and pushes the walls out until the vessel reaches its final shape.
Clay Cooking Pot Georgia Russia
Figure 10. Typical Catawba cooking pots. Back row, left to light: Nola Campbell; anonymous, nineteenth century; Earl Robbins. Front row, left to right: anonymous milk pan, nineteenth century; Georgia Harris; Billie Anne McKellar. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

to time a bit of gourd, both kept wet in a vessel of water standing near, she then blended and smoothed the inside of the vessel in similar fashion. . . . During these processes the jar was seen to increase gradually in size as its walls became thinner, until at last, the smoothing finished, it had attained the desired dimensions. Then Mrs. Brown leveled off the rim and bent it to suit her fancy, . . . then the vessel was set away in an airy place to dry. (Harrington 1908:403-404)

Today, almost 100 years later, the construction method for the cooking pot is exactly the same. It is to the credit of the conservative nature of the tradition that this humble vessel, such as that constructed by the Browns, has remained the mainstay for the Indian potters.

BASIC VESSEL—BUILDING WITH RINGS

Building with rings is a variation of the roll/coil method and was demonstrated by Edith Brown in 1977 (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April

Catawba Dry Stack

Figure 11. Basic pot made with rings.

  1. The potter takes up a morsel of clay, forms it into a ball. The potter makes certain no air holes remain in the clay.
  2. The potter flattens the ball into a disk, which is to form the bottom of the vessel.
  3. The potter then makes rolls and forms them into rings of equal size.
  4. The rings are stacked on the vessel's base. The seams are placed in different places so the potter will attain strong walls for the vessel.
  5. The potter takes a jar lid or a bit of coconut shell and obliterates the exterior seams between the rolls.
  6. As a last step, the potter works the interior of the pot and pushes the walls out until the vessel reaches its final shape.

Figure 11. Basic pot made with rings.

  1. The potter takes up a morsel of clay, forms it into a ball. The potter makes certain no air holes remain in the clay.
  2. The potter flattens the ball into a disk, which is to form the bottom of the vessel.
  3. The potter then makes rolls and forms them into rings of equal size.
  4. The rings are stacked on the vessel's base. The seams are placed in different places so the potter will attain strong walls for the vessel.
  5. The potter takes a jar lid or a bit of coconut shell and obliterates the exterior seams between the rolls.
  6. As a last step, the potter works the interior of the pot and pushes the walls out until the vessel reaches its final shape.

1977, BC). She followed the same movements as those used in the more commonly followed coil method and created a disk to form the vessel's bottom. The rolls were constructed by the same method as the rolls for any other vessel. Edith Brown, however, took the rolls a step further and shaped them into complete rings that fit the circumference of the base. Each ring was then stacked on the disk. In this way the basic size of the vessel was attained. Once the desired height was reached, the potter took a modeling tool and smoothed the exterior of the vessel until the rings were completely obliterated. When this task was completed, she moved to the interior. While Edith Brown obliterated the

Blumer Ring
Figure 12. Edith Harris Brown building a typical Catawba cooking pot. Potter used the ring construction method. (Photo by Thomas J. Blumer, 1977)

interior rings, she also pushed the walls out until the vessel took its final form.

BASIC VESSEL—BUILDING WITH MORSELS OF CLAY

The morsel building technique is actually modeling from a single lump of clay rather than rolls or rings. To make the traditional cooking pot by this method, the potter first takes up a morsel of clay. This is rolled into a ball. The ball is then placed on the lap board and rolled into a cylinder similar in shape and size to a soft drink can. Once it is perfectly formed, the potter pokes the right index finger into the middle of the cylinder. Working from the inside, the potter then widens the interior to make a basic bowl or cooking pot. This method is generally used for the construction of small vessels.

The three building methods produce the same result, and a graceful cooking pot reveals the skill of the potter. The basic vessel can also be

Figure 13. Basic pot made with a morsel of clay.

  1. The potter takes up a morsel of clay, forms it into a ball. The potter makes certain no air holes remain in the clay.
  2. The potter forms a cylinder from the morsel of clay.
  3. When the cylinder is complete, the potter pokes his finger in the top of the cylinder and makes a hole, which will be the interior of the pot.
  4. The potter begins to push the vessel from the inside to reach its final shape.

modified into a large corpus of shapes. The list of vessels that begin as a plain cooking pot is long:

  1. plain cooking pot
  2. cooking pot with lid
  3. cooking pot with three legs
  4. cooking pot with four legs (rare)
  5. cooking pot with two handles
  6. cooking pot with lug handles
  7. cooking pot with Indian head lugs
  8. cooking pot with crimped rim
  9. cooking pot with fluted rim
  10. cooking pot with two handles and three legs, gypsy pot
  11. milk pan
  12. snake effigy pot
  13. snake effigy pot with three legs
  14. snake effigy pot with two handles
  15. snake effigy pot with two lugs
  16. gypsy pot with snake effigy
  17. water jar (vase)
  18. water jar with three legs
  19. water jar with two handles
  20. water jar with Indian head lugs
  21. water jar with fluted rim
  22. cupid jug
  23. wedding jug
  24. wedding jug with flat Indian heads
  25. wedding jug with snake effigy
  26. wedding jug with one spout
  27. Rebecca pitcher
  28. Rebecca pitcher with snake effigy
  29. water pitcher
  30. bread tray
  31. creamer pitcher
  32. lizard vase with handles
  33. alligator effigy pot
  34. basket pot with loop handle
  35. bowl with turtle effigies
  36. water jug with turtle effigies
  37. turtle effigy pot
  38. peace pipe with four stems
  39. peace pipe with six stems
  40. peace pipe with two Indian head lugs
  41. loving cup
  42. loving cup without base
  43. horse effigy pot
  44. rat effigy pot
  45. flower pot

MODIFYING THE BASIC COOKING POT The Snake Effigy Pot

This vessel is of great importance, and its successful construction is the goal of every master potter. The snake effigy pot is also popular with collectors. In the beginning, the traditional snake pot follows the

Catawba Snake Pot

Figure 14. Building a snake pot.

  1. The potter selects a vessel that is to become a snake pot.
  2. A long roll is created to take the form of the snake.
  3. The roll is worked into the rough shape of a snake.
  4. The vessel selected to become a snake pot is then scored in the area where the snake's body is to rest. Some potters cut a channel in the vessel and place the snake in this groove.
  5. The snake is placed on the side of the vessel. The potter works the area between the snake and vessel to make certain no air pockets remain.

Figure 14. Building a snake pot.

  1. The potter selects a vessel that is to become a snake pot.
  2. A long roll is created to take the form of the snake.
  3. The roll is worked into the rough shape of a snake.
  4. The vessel selected to become a snake pot is then scored in the area where the snake's body is to rest. Some potters cut a channel in the vessel and place the snake in this groove.
  5. The snake is placed on the side of the vessel. The potter works the area between the snake and vessel to make certain no air pockets remain.
Figure 15. Snake pots. Back row, left to light: Earl Robbins; anonymous nineteenth century. Front row, left to right: Doris Blue; Denise Nichols. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

same construction technique as the cooking pot because most, but not all, Catawba snake effigy pots are cooking pots. First, a vessel that is large enough to hold a snake effigy is built. The potter then sets the vessel aside and allows it to strengthen a bit through a partial drying period. Once the piece is strong enough to hold the snake without slumping, the potter takes a morsel of clay and rolls it into the shape of a serpent. Then the potter decides how the snake will rest on the pot. A shallow ridge is then cut into the vessel and the pattern the snake will follow is scored. This area is then moistened, and the body of the snake is secured in place (Doris Blue, interview, 24 March 1980, BC; Stout, 1978). The serpent is then worked into the vessel until the potter feels the bond is secure.

Taking a snake pot through the difficult firing process can result in a high level of breakage. While the potters work to make sure no air pockets are left between the vessel and the applied snake, this is hard to accomplish. In most of the breakage that occurs in snake pots, the serpent has popped off the vessel during the burning.

The Water Jug

To build a water jug, or a vase as the potters often call this vessel, the potter begins once again with a basic cooking pot. After the walls of

Figure 16. Building a water jug.

  1. The potter selects a vessel that is to become a water jug.
  2. A number of rolls are constructed by the potter.
  3. The rolls are stacked on the rim of the vessel. The seams are placed in different places so the potter will attain strong walls for the vessel.
  4. The potter takes a jar lid or a bit of coconut shell and obliterates the exterior seams between the rolls.
  5. As a last step, the potter works the interior of the pot and pushes the walls out until the vessel reaches its final shape.

Figure 16. Building a water jug.

  1. The potter selects a vessel that is to become a water jug.
  2. A number of rolls are constructed by the potter.
  3. The rolls are stacked on the rim of the vessel. The seams are placed in different places so the potter will attain strong walls for the vessel.
  4. The potter takes a jar lid or a bit of coconut shell and obliterates the exterior seams between the rolls.
  5. As a last step, the potter works the interior of the pot and pushes the walls out until the vessel reaches its final shape.
Indian Clay Jugs
Figure 17. Water jugs. Back row, left to light: Nola Campbell; Georgia Harris; Georgia Harris. Front row, left to right: Elizabeth Plyler; anonymous, nineteenth century; Nola Campbell. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

the parent vessel go through a short drying period to allow them to gain strength, the potter returns to the parent vessel. A number of rolls are constructed and set to one side. The potter then moistens the rim of the cooking pot and begins to add rolls for the neck. Once the desired height is reached, the exterior and then the interior of the rolls are smoothed. The rim of the finished vessel can be fluted or carved in some pleasing manner.

The Indian Head Jar

The ability to construct large Indian head jars reveals a master potter at work. The building of this vessel follows the regular evolutionary process from the basic cooking pot to a common water jar. The jar is merely turned into an Indian head jar by the addition of heads, which are lugs. These lugs are attached through the use of a pre-Columbian Mississippian construction technique. This simple method is used to attach all appendages. When building an Indian head vase, the potters can either hand model the lugs or use pipes taken from squeeze molds. The lugs are made separately from the vessel before the process of adding them to the vessel is begun. The potter first determines where the

Figure 18. Building an Indian head jar.

  1. The potter selects a water jug that is to become an Indian head jar.
  2. Holes are cut in the side of the vessel. These are usually placed where the neck meets the body of the vessel.
  3. An Indian head lug is constructed. It is usually an Indian head pipe. The stem is made long enough to penetrate through the vessel's walls.
  4. The Indian head lug is forced through the hole with the stem protruding on the inside of the vessel.
  5. The potter smoothes the inside where the stem protruded so that the place cannot be detected.
Catawba Indian Pottery
Figure 19. Indian head jars. Back row, left to right: Blanche Bryson; Arzada Sanders; Georgia Harris. Front row, left to right: Mildred Blue; attributed to Susannah Owl. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

lugs will be placed on the vessel. The locations are marked and holes are bored through the vessel walls. The lugs are then thrust through the holes, clinched on the inside and fortified with extra morsels of clay on the exterior for a firm bond. Such lugs, however, present the potter with special problems. A pipe lug in particular is quite heavy and will not stand up well if unsupported during the early drying process. Also, it is often difficult to dry this kind of lug completely since the appendage is thick. To solve the problem of weight and drying, the potters often hollow out the bowl of the lug as they would when making a pipe. The weight of the lug is considerably reduced in this process. The pipe stem is left solid before it is inserted through a hole bored into the pot for this express purpose. Even when the lug has been carved out to make it lighter, the potters often must support the lug during at least the initial part of the drying process. The support of a towel will help keep the lug firmly in place until the vessel and the lug are strong enough to stand on their own.

The Gypsy Pot

The gypsy pot, too, begins as the versatile cooking pot. After the required drying process has been honored, the potter marks the places

Potholes Vessels

Figure 20. Building a gypsy pot.

  1. The potter selects a bowl that is to become a gypsy pot. Holes are cut in the side of the vessel. These holes are placed where the handles are to be attached, near the rim.
  2. The handle is forced through the hole with the stem protruding on the inside of the vessel.
  3. The potter smoothes the inside where the stem protruded so that the place cannot be detected.
  4. The potter then adds morsels between the handles and the walls of the pot to ensure a good bond.
  5. If the potter decides the handles are to attach to the rim of the vessel, only one hole is cut in the side of the vessel.
  6. The handle is forced through the hole with the stem protruding on the inside of the vessel. The free end of the handle has a fork cut into it, and the fork is made to clutch the rim. The potter smoothes the inside where the stem protruded so that the place cannot be detected.
Figure 21. Portrait of Nola Campbell holding a green ware gypsy pot. (Photo by Thomas J. Blumer)

where the handles will be. Two sets of holes are cut in the walls of the vessel, one for the top of the handle and the other for the bottom. A handle is then thrust through the holes. It is clinched on the interior and strengthened on the exterior for a firm bond. On occasion the potter will use one set of holes and fix the top of the handle to the pot's rim.

To complete the gypsy pot, the potter must allow for a second short drying process. The potter then flips the vessel over and sets it mouth down on a lap board. The places where the three legs will be attached are marked and holes are cut to take the legs. Pre-constructed legs are then nudged through the vessel, clinched on the interior, and strengthened on the exterior. Gypsy pots do not vary in form from the required two handles and three legs. The shape can, however, take on a different personality through the hands of each potter.

The Indian head bowl follows the same basic construction technique as the gypsy pot. Instead of handles, the potter provides Indian head lugs. The three legs remain the same.

Catawba Indian Pottery
Figure 22. Indian head bowls. Back row, left to light: Doris Blue; Earl Rob-bins; Nola Campbell. Front row: Mildred Blue. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

The Rebecca

Perhaps the most elaborate adaptation of the cooking pot is a form adopted into the tradition at the turn of the twentieth century, the Rebecca pitcher. Nineteenth-century examples of this vessel clearly show that the Rebecca once began life as a cooking pot. The Rebecca is built in four stages and all parts are modeled. The potter begins by producing a cylinder of clay. If the vessel is to have an inverted cone-shaped base, the potter pinches the cylinder into two equal portions, poking a hole in the center of what will be the bowl, and modeling a small bowl. The bottom portion becomes the cone-shaped pedestal. At this point, the vessel is shaped roughly like an hourglass. After a suitable drying period, the potter bores a hole in the top rim of the bowl. A partial handle is then modeled and inserted into this hole. It is left standing as the construction continues. Next, the long neck is modeled. The lip of the neck tops off the spout. The neck is attached to the bowl, and the spout is attached to the neck and they are smoothed into each other to make a good seal. The fourth and last step is to finish the handle, which runs parallel to the entire neck from the rim to the bowl. The top of the handle is wedged into the rim of the neck and the two por-

Indian Pinched Ear Clay Figures

Figure 23. Building a Rebecca pitcher.

  1. The potter forms a cylinder from a morsel of clay. The potter pokes a hole in the top and the bottom of the cylinder.
  2. The cylinder is then pinched in the center.
  3. The top is to become the base for the pitcher's body. The bottom is to become a cone shape on which the vessel will rest.
  4. The top of the form is capped to form a hollow globe that will become the body of the pitcher. A hole is cut to take the neck.
  5. A neck is formed of another morsel of clay and worked into the body of the vessel.
  6. A hole is cut at the base of the neck. This hole will take a long handle that runs parallel to the neck to the rim. The handle is attached through the vessel at the bottom and by means of a fork of clay at the rim.
  7. The spout is pulled from the neck.

Figure 23. Building a Rebecca pitcher.

  1. The potter forms a cylinder from a morsel of clay. The potter pokes a hole in the top and the bottom of the cylinder.
  2. The cylinder is then pinched in the center.
  3. The top is to become the base for the pitcher's body. The bottom is to become a cone shape on which the vessel will rest.
  4. The top of the form is capped to form a hollow globe that will become the body of the pitcher. A hole is cut to take the neck.
  5. A neck is formed of another morsel of clay and worked into the body of the vessel.
  6. A hole is cut at the base of the neck. This hole will take a long handle that runs parallel to the neck to the rim. The handle is attached through the vessel at the bottom and by means of a fork of clay at the rim.
  7. The spout is pulled from the neck.
Rebecca Pithers
Figure 24. Rebecca pitchers. Back row, left to right: anonymous, early twentieth century; Georgia Harris; Nola Campbell. Front row, left to right: Emma Brown; Catherine Canty. (Photo by Phil Moody)
Catawba Indian Water Forms
Figure 25. Water pitchers. Back row, left to right: Nola Campbell; Frances Wade; Martin Harris. Front row, left to right: Georgia Harris; anonymous, nineteenth century; Nola Campbell. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)
Catawba Indian Water Forms

Figure 26. Building a cupid jug.

  1. The potter selects a bowl that is to become a cupid jug.
  2. The bowl is then capped to form a hollow globe.
  3. The potter then cuts three holes in the top of the globe.
  4. The center hole will take a loop handle and the two flanking holes take spouts.

Figure 26. Building a cupid jug.

  1. The potter selects a bowl that is to become a cupid jug.
  2. The bowl is then capped to form a hollow globe.
  3. The potter then cuts three holes in the top of the globe.
  4. The center hole will take a loop handle and the two flanking holes take spouts.

tions of the handle are worked into each other to form a good seal. Today, the potters often omit the cone-shaped base.

The plain water pitcher follows a construction technique similar to the Rebecca. The neck is not as long, and the handle does not run parallel to the neck.

the cupid jug and the wedding jug

The so-called cupid jug, recently revived, begins construction as a bowl or typical cooking pot that receives a lipped lid. This cap is then smoothed onto the bowl so that a small hollow globe is formed. After this flat-bottomed globelike shape has gone through a sufficient drying period, three equidistant holes are bored in the top: one in the center for the loop handle and one for each of two spouts (Georgia Harris, Field Notes, 1977, BC).

The wedding jug was introduced to the Catawba tradition in the twentieth century. It begins as a globe similar to the cupid jug. To make a wedding jug, however, the potter cuts two large equidistant

Figure 27. Building a wedding jug.

  1. The potter selects a bowl that is to become a wedding jug. It is capped in the same way the potter caps the bowl that is to become a cupid jug. This time only two holes are cut in the top of the globe.
  2. Spouts are forced through the holes.
  3. A handle with forks at each end is made and worked into the interior sides of the spouts forming a basket handle.

Figure 27. Building a wedding jug.

  1. The potter selects a bowl that is to become a wedding jug. It is capped in the same way the potter caps the bowl that is to become a cupid jug. This time only two holes are cut in the top of the globe.
  2. Spouts are forced through the holes.
  3. A handle with forks at each end is made and worked into the interior sides of the spouts forming a basket handle.

holes in the top of the globe and then inserts two spouts that were made earlier. In a third step, a handle with two forked ends to wrap over the rim of each spout is constructed. It forms a loop above the two spouts and is wedged firmly over the inner rims of each spout.

The Peace Pipe

The ancient Catawba peace pipe is built in three stages. A small bowl, a miniature cooking pot, is built following traditional construction methods. It may or may not have a separate rim. After a short drying period, the four pipe stems are measured off equidistantly around the pot, holes are bored, and stems are inserted and clinched on the inside. The vessel is then set aside for a second drying period. Once the peace pipe is considered strong enough, holes for the three legs are measured

Louise Bryson
Figure 28. Wedding jugs. Back row, left to light: Lillie Beck Sanders; Earl Robbins; Nola Campbell. Front row, left to right: Louise Bryson; Evelyn George; Viola Robbins. (Photo by Phil Moody)

off. One pipe stem is used as a reference point. When the legs are made, inserted, and made secure, the completed vessel is set aside again to await the final finishing processes.

The Swan or Duck Pot

One favorite modern innovation among the Catawba potters is the swan or duck pot. Nola Campbell was well known for this form. She began by building a traditional pot (see Figure 9) but made the base oblong rather than round. She then constructed a shallow bowl using two or three rolls. When this still-crude vessel had set up for a time, the potter constructed a head and neck and attached them to one end of the vessel by the use of a forked morsel of clay. The excess clay was smoothed away so the joining could not be seen. Wings were then constructed of additional morsels and secured to the side of the vessel by a deep ridge along the bottom edge of the wing. This ridge folded over the body of the bowl and made a strong bond. The tail was either pinched from the end of the bowl or added in exactly the same fashion as the wings and neck, as a forked morsel (Nola Campbell, Field Notes, 1977, BC).

Sara Ayers Catawba Pottery
Figure 29. Peace pipes. Back row, left to right: Georgia Harris; Catherine Canty; Sara Lee Ayers. Center: Earl Robbins. Front row, left to right: anonymous, nineteenth century; Mildred Blue; attributed to Susannah Owl. Pottery from Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

Schedule for the Drying Process

While a vessel is in the building process it must be handled with great care, so is usually left on the lap board. Straightening a lopsided vessel at this point can be difficult and is best accomplished by a master potter (Sallie Beck, interview, 21 April 1977, BC). Indeed, the potter allows the vessel to rest between stages just to prevent the possibility of a sagging wall. Sallie Beck described a rough timetable she followed when making Rebecca pitchers. If she constructed the body of the vessel in the evening, it was ready to take the neck portion the next morning. Handles were then added toward evening of that day. In effect, the process usually cannot be completed in one day. Once the unburned vessel is dry, however, it is remarkably sturdy and can take some rough treatment.

Bending Pipes

While many Catawba pipes are manufactured with squeeze molds, the ancient art of bending pipes by hand is still followed. The pipes produced by this method fall into two categories: traditional and fanciful.

Figure 30. Bending an arrow pipe.

  1. The potter takes a morsel of clay and builds a cylinder.
  2. The cylinder is flattened on one end. The flattened end is to become an arrow suspended from the pipe bowl.
  3. The arrow is carved from the flattened end of the cylinder.
  4. A hole is cut in the side of the bowl.
  5. A stem is inserted into the hole and made firm. The potter immediately cuts the hole in the stem. This hole must be large enough to take a reed stem and long enough to reach the bowl. The bowl is carved when the pipe is nearly dry.

Figure 30. Bending an arrow pipe.

  1. The potter takes a morsel of clay and builds a cylinder.
  2. The cylinder is flattened on one end. The flattened end is to become an arrow suspended from the pipe bowl.
  3. The arrow is carved from the flattened end of the cylinder.
  4. A hole is cut in the side of the bowl.
  5. A stem is inserted into the hole and made firm. The potter immediately cuts the hole in the stem. This hole must be large enough to take a reed stem and long enough to reach the bowl. The bowl is carved when the pipe is nearly dry.
Doris Blue Catawba

Figure 31. Pipes. Rear with cane stems, bottom to top: comb pipe, Doris Blue; anonymous, twentieth century. Right side with cane stems, bottom to top: comb pipe, Edwin Campbell; shoe pipe, Georgia Harris; plain pipe, Georgia Harris; axe pipe, Doris Blue; plain pipe, Georgia Harris. Back row, left to light: Indian head pipe, Billie Anne McKellar; turtle pipe, Earl Robbins; Indian head arrow pipe, Earl Robbins. Second row, left to right: Indian head pipe, Georgia Harris; turtle pipe, Mildred Blue; claw pipe, Foxx Ayers; comb pipe with clay stem, Edwin Campbell; plain pipe, Georgia Harris. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

Figure 31. Pipes. Rear with cane stems, bottom to top: comb pipe, Doris Blue; anonymous, twentieth century. Right side with cane stems, bottom to top: comb pipe, Edwin Campbell; shoe pipe, Georgia Harris; plain pipe, Georgia Harris; axe pipe, Doris Blue; plain pipe, Georgia Harris. Back row, left to light: Indian head pipe, Billie Anne McKellar; turtle pipe, Earl Robbins; Indian head arrow pipe, Earl Robbins. Second row, left to right: Indian head pipe, Georgia Harris; turtle pipe, Mildred Blue; claw pipe, Foxx Ayers; comb pipe with clay stem, Edwin Campbell; plain pipe, Georgia Harris. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

The Catawba tradition is rich in pipe shapes. The procedure followed in both cases is the same. First the potter takes up a wad of clay, works it into a ball, and then rolls the ball into a cylinder. The actual pipe lug is then molded by hand from one end of this cylinder. The other end is flattened so the potter may cut the proper comb shape or perhaps an arrow, both of which are suspended from the bottom of the bowl. If the resulting pipe is too large, the excess clay is trimmed away with a knife. The finished lug is then put aside to let the clay set up. Once the clay is ready to be taken in hand again, the potter bores a hole for the stem, models a separate stem, and inserts it in the bowl end of the lug exactly as any other appendage would be attached to a bowl. A hole large enough to hold a river cane reed is immediately bored in the stem. This hole must be deep enough to reach the bowl, which is yet to be carved in the lug. This last task is done as soon as the lug is strong enough to be carved (Billie Anne McKellar, interview, 2 April 1977, BC). The most common traditional pipe forms made in this fashion are the comb pipe, plain smoking pipe, and a curious little plain pipe with a bib of clay under the bowl. All three of these forms seem to be of ancient origin.

The most common of the so-called fanciful pipes are the arrow pipes, both single and double. The lug is made from a cylinder. One end is flattened and cut into the shape of an arrow, and the other end forms the bowl. The stem is then inserted into the bowl portion, and a pre-molded smaller arrowhead is inserted into the opposite end of the bowl. Before this pipe lug is put aside to set up, the hole intended to take a reed stem is bored out.

The Catawba pipe tradition allows for a great deal of innovation on the part of the potters. Yet though this is true, most of the Catawba who construct pipes rely on the standard traditional pipes and do not commonly vary the shape of their work. The list of pipe shapes includes:

  1. plain pipe
  2. comb pipe
  3. arrow pipe
  4. horse pipe
  5. horse head pipe
  6. turtle pipe
  7. Indian head pipe
  8. Indian head arrow pipe
  9. tomahawk pipe
  10. axe pipe
  11. pick axe pipe
  12. lathing axe pipe
  13. fanciful pipe
  14. teapot pipe
  15. briar imitation pipe
  16. pitcher pipe
  17. fish pipe
  18. snake effigy pipe
  19. barrel-shaped pipe
  20. hand pipe
  21. frog effigy pipe
  22. arrow pipe with second arrow protruding from front of bowl

Squeeze Mold

A large number of Catawba pipes are built with the use of squeeze molds (see Figure 8). To use such molds, the potter first takes a morsel of clay and works it into a rough shape that is similar to the pipe to be taken from the mold. This morsel is then placed in the mold and squeezed into position. As excess clay emerges from between the two halves of the mold, the potter removes it with a knife. The potter may also remove the lug from the mold, trim some of the excess clay away and place the lug back into the mold. This may be repeated several times before a suitable lug is removed. Once the potter is happy with the pipe lug produced, the product is removed for the last time. Some finishing trimming may then be done. The potter takes a stick and bores out the pipe stem before putting the lug to one side to dry. The pipe bowl will not be bored out with a knife until the pipe has gone through a partial drying process.

The Catawba construction methods are successful. The potters secure handles, lugs, and legs to their vessels carefully, yet they do recognize these appendages as possible weak points in their constructions. Even when the greatest of care is taken, the results can be disappointing. Wedding jug handles that are not properly secured can slip off in the fire (Fred Sanders, interview, 8 February 1977, BC). This happens because they are wedged over the spouts rather than attached through a hole in the vessel. Such a tragedy seldom occurs with handles attached through holes in the vessel. If the appendage is not applied with proper care, the appendage will break or even pop off in the fire.

Molds are primarily produced to assist in the manufacture of smoking pipes. In theory, any pipe in current production may be copied in a squeeze mold. Molds also come in all sizes. As a result, a potter may have two or three sizes of Indian head molds. Earl Robbins, for instance, has two sets of small Indian head pipe molds he made as a young man and numerous sets of Indian head pipe molds from various different Indian head pipes. Mr. Robbins is the most accomplished mold maker in the Nation. The list of molds commonly found at a potter's disposal is not a long one. Mr. Robbins is probably the only potter who has multiple examples of all these molds in his possession.

  1. Indian head pipe
  2. plain pipe
  3. comb pipe
  4. axe pipes of all varieties
  5. arrow pipe
  6. Indian head with arrow
  7. tomahawk
  8. face for application on side of a pot

EFFIGIES

The effigy has long been an important part of the Catawba tradition. Effigies are usually small and seldom break in the fire. For the most part effigies are inexpensive and are popular with the collector who has little money to spend yet wants something of Catawba manufacture.

Indian Effigy Pipes Turtle

Figure 32. Turtle effigies. Back row, left to right: unknown, twentieth century; Earl Robbins; unknown, twentieth century; unknown, twentieth century. Middle row, left to right: Catherine Canty; bowl with lid, Louise Bryson; Mildred Blue; three small turtles, Earl Robbins. Front row, left to right: Georgia Harris; Beulah Harris; Edna Brown; Caroleen Sanders; Cheryl Gordon. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

Figure 32. Turtle effigies. Back row, left to right: unknown, twentieth century; Earl Robbins; unknown, twentieth century; unknown, twentieth century. Middle row, left to right: Catherine Canty; bowl with lid, Louise Bryson; Mildred Blue; three small turtles, Earl Robbins. Front row, left to right: Georgia Harris; Beulah Harris; Edna Brown; Caroleen Sanders; Cheryl Gordon. Pottery from the Blumer Collection. (Photo by Phil Moody)

Only the snake and the turtle can be firmly linked to Catawba folklore and history. The most popular nineteenth-century effigies were the turtle, snake, and squirrel.

The turtle has a unique construction technique (see Figure 32). The potter first rolls a morsel of clay into a ball. This ball is then elongated to form a cylinder. Satisfied with the size of the cylinder, the potter squeezes it in the middle to make two equal portions. The top is molded into the turtle's carapace and the bottom is worked into the head, tail, and legs. The two sections are then pressed together to form a turtle.

The Catawba will make almost any kind of an animal effigy if they think it will sell. In the nineteenth century, the potters commonly made chicken effigies. Today, this shape has been discontinued. Master potter Evelyn George, however, makes a turkey effigy. Catherine Canty was known for her dog effigy ashtrays and her rat pots. The commonly made effigies are:

1. turtle

2. frog

4. snake

5. beaver

6. bear

9. squirrel 10. horse pot

FINISHING—SCRAPING

This next step after construction is crucial, for many uneven features are repaired at this stage. "John Brown again took a hand in the work and scraped the surface of each one very carefully with iron and cane knives, reducing all irregularities and making the walls thinner. Much of the symmetry and attractiveness of the finished product depends upon the care with which this work is done" (Harrington 1908:404).

Scraping is akin to carving. The potters carefully remove the uneven places left from building the vessel. The walls are thinned down considerably. The person scraping the pot pays special attention to the handles, legs, and lugs and makes certain the vessel will show at its best. While the piece is being scraped, it is held in the potter's lap covered by a cloth. The scrapings are carefully collected in the cloth. All these bits of clay are saved for future use. No clay is wasted. Potters such as Nola Campbell preferred to scrape their pots wet, while potters such as Catherine Canty preferred to work with a fully dried pot.

FINISHING—RUBBING

The very last task is to rub the pot with a rubbing stone. This process, too, remains unchanged from prehistoric times. Archaeologists commonly find vessels in their digs that show the marks of the rubbing stone. Harrington's 1908 description is still accurate: "When he [John Brown] had finished a vessel, John handed it to his daughter, who moistened it with a damp rag and rubbed it carefully all over with the water-worn pebble kept for that purpose, removing all trace of scraping. . . . A fine polished surface may be produced, they told me, by patient use of this primitive tool. For rubbing around handles, . . . legs, and other difficult places, she used a polished bone smoother, resembling closely the blunt awl-like bone implements sometimes found in ar-cheological excavations on the site of ancient Indian villages" (Harrington 1908:404).

The potter determines the length of time spent rubbing a pot. Those who make trade ware cut this tedious task to the minimum effort, but even then each pot is rubbed quite thoroughly. In such a case, however, the rubbing marks are easily discerned. Edith Brown rubbed her vessels only once but gave the effort a great deal of time. The best of her work

Earl Robbins Pottery
Figure 33. Earl Robbins with a water jug, finished and ready for the fire. (Photo by Thomas J. Blumer)

exhibited a satinlike shine, and it is difficult to see the marks of the burnishing tool (Edith Brown, interview, 21 April 1977, BC).

Doris Blue was celebrated for the excellence of her work. She never sold a vessel that had not been labored over for many hours. All were finished to perfection, and she never left telltale signs of the rubbing rock on her pottery. She claimed that a dry pot would rub to a higher gloss. She always rubbed each vessel twice. The first rubbing was done when the vessel was still damp. Later, when the vessel had more time to dry, it was rubbed a second time (Doris Blue, interview, 15 March 1977, BC). Georgia Harris followed this same pattern, but she used two different stones. The first rubbing was done with a newer, rougher stone, while the second rubbing was accomplished with an older, smoother stone (Georgia Harris, interview, 10 March 1977, BC).

MINIATURES

The making of miniatures is a sub-tradition among the Catawba. The practice is an ancient one (Coe 1952). Some of the modern Catawba potters like the challenge of constructing tiny vessels. The Catawba potters who make miniatures may turn to any traditional shape when producing a miniature. In spite of their size, miniatures follow the same construction techniques used for larger vessels and are merely tiny versions of the full-sized vessels. Today, the most accomplished Catawba miniaturist is master potter Edwin Campbell. All of his vessels, in spite of their small size, could be used if they were larger. His work looks much like that of his mother, the late Nola Campbell. The following 18 shapes are the only miniatures observed to date.

1.

cooking pot

2.

water jar/vase

3.

wedding jug

4.

canoe

5.

snake effigy pot

6.

butter churn with lid and dasher

7.

loving cup

8.

turtle

9.

plain pipe

10.

comb pipe

11.

Indian head pipe

12.

candle holder

13.

gypsy pot

14.

duck effigy

15.

Rebecca pitcher

16.

water pitcher

17.

peace pipe

18.

duck pot

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