BERNALILLO - Ulysses "Lou" Reid, a traditional Zia and Mesa Verde pottery maker, learned most of his pottery making skills and techniques at Coronado State Monument, where he spoke to interested locals about his pottery last Sunday.
Reid worked for the Pueblo of Zia Language and Cultural Preservation program for many years before receiving a folk art apprenticeship grant from the New Mexico Arts program in 2004. Reid owes a great deal of his pottery-making skills to his mentor, Rufina Panana.
Reid started off the lecture by giving some background and history of the pueblos in the area. Coronado State Monument, near Rio Rancho, features numerous pueblo ruins.
Reid has been doing pottery for about three years. Many of his designs are those derived from his grandfather's pottery. His grandfather, the late Andres Galvan, created many beautiful two-dimensional pottery designs. Also, his great-grandmother was a skilled pottery maker, he said, showing a picture of her from around 1910. He pointed out the cotton clothing she wore, an indication of modernization. She made her money, he said, by selling her pottery in order to buy those clothes.
The pottery presentation was put on by the Friends of Coronado State Monument, who asked Reid to do the presentation.
Friends of Coronado State Monument is a non-profit organization that does community projects and events.
The group has been around for about six years now, according to board member Barbara Williams, and is nearing 200 members.
Everything in creating the pottery has to be done before it is "fired," even painting. The pots are painted with bee plants, Reid explained. "We boil the bee plant (also known as a spinach plant) down; we cook and strain it. We keep reducing the plant until you get the consistency of syrup," he said.
When the pots are ready to be fired, they are heated and the fire is built, usually in a sunken pit. These fires reach extreme heat and are mostly covered to induce this.
"We wait until the fuel turns to charcoal to put the pottery in a really high temperature," Reid explained.
The pots are heated before being put on the fire.
If they are not, they will explode in the extreme transition into the heat. The same will happen if the pot does not cool down gradually. "If we take the pot out and put it out, say in the wind, the breeze can crack the pot," he said.
Reid uses two types of clay: Mesa Verde clay and temper. Mesa Verde is a red basalt rock, which is really heavy.
Temper is a volcanic ash, which has the consistency of gravel. The temper makes the pots a more yellow color, Reid said. "I like [the ash] because it's really pliable, it's not heavy. It's easier to work with."
Reid does most of his pottery at Coronado State Monument."
"He comes [and fires pottery] about three or four times a year, at least to my knowledge," said Jim Conder, president of Friends of Coronado State Monument. "He may come more often than that."
Due to the winds, Reid was not able to do a firing demonstration for the audience, but may set one up in the near future.
His work is on display at the Poeh Museum in Santa Fe through July 17.