||Cedar Mesa PotteryIt’s hard to find a more lasting and beautiful reminder of Southern Utah than an Indian hand-painted piece of pottery.More than a decade ago Joe Lyman started Cedar Mesa Pottery, a business which he directs and his two sons run today, producing what might be the finest pottery in the west.It was the fall of 1981. Lyman was working with some Native Americans and he felt that they could commercially produce pottery.Lyman purchased a kiln and the necessary molds and started the operation. Today the business is a success.We specialize in producing Indian hand-painted pottery as opposed to hand-painted Indian pottery. Anyone can produce hand-painted Indian pottery; only an Indian can produce Indian hand-painted pottery, says Joe B. Lyman, son of the original Joe Lyman. We give the Native American artists a wide parameter to work within. Everyone does their own thing. The artists can do anything they want with color and design. We encourage them to come up with their own original designs. One line, Mystic Maiden, was created by Emily Blackhorse. We will pay her a royalty for the first two years the piece is in production. Right now her royalties are as much as her regular income.
To create the finest pottery they begin with the clay. They take clays from New York, California, Tennessee and Texas and mix them to create what is known as a casting slip.
The slip is pumped into molds which dry from the outside in. When the piece reaches the proper thickness the excess slip is poured out and recycled.
The piece is then left to dry for 24 hours. The seams are removed and the pot is smoothed with a sponge and is ready to paint.
All pieces are hand-painted by Navajo or Ute artists, 45 total Native American artists, who sign each piece. Artists are virtually free to use an unlimited color band and design combination. Artists are paid by the piece for their work.
Once painted, the pieces are fired in one of four large gas kilns. It takes three to five hours to reach 2,000 degrees, then several hours to cool.
One of the unique features of Cedar Mesa Pottery is that visitors can tour the entire plant and watch the pottery being created. You can see the artists at work and witness just what a skill it is to be able to paint the various pieces. Each artist seems to take pride in the type of work he or she is creating. There are no stencils. Each artist is creating the piece from scratch.
So next time you see a piece of Indian pottery, ask yourself – Is this hand-painted Indian pottery or is it Indian hand-painted pottery?