Creating ‘fire clouds’
Celia Flores, who speaks Spanish, doesn’t even remember how long she has been creating pottery.
“Maybe 20 years,” she said through Michael Wilkin. The distinctive pottery is fired in open pits, using yucca stalks for fuel.
She creates the dark “fire clouds,” as the Paipai potters know them, from the interaction of yucca, fire, clay and water.
Potters walk to the place where the clay is found and carry it back in cloth bags. They prepare by cleaning out the rocks and sticks, and use metates to powder it. Prepping the clay takes as long as making the pot, Wilkin said.
“We fire at sunset. By the next day it is ready,” Flores said. “Building the pot can take anywhere from several hours to several days.”
The pots serve many purposes in the Paipai culture. Flores uses pots for cooking or heating water. Her translator cradles a bean pot in his hands.
“They can be put right on the fire,” he said.
The pots have a new function for the Paipai, Wilkin added.
“They provide an income for the potters,” he said.