Lukfi Atoba: Made from the Earth
One of the Choctaw terms for pottery literally means "made from the earth". Traditional ceramics tie in to Choctaw creation stories as well as early oral histories. There's nothing quite like seeing a human fingerprint in a 1000-year-old piece of pottery and realizing that it could have been made by your own grandmother. Pottery is such an important element of Choctaw culture that there's no revitalizing Indigenous Choctaw cuisine without it.
My first experiments in making and firing traditional pottery go back to around age 9. By high school, I had a few pieces that survived the fire. Helped by a lot of people on the way, I've learned to make and use many of the forms of pottery used by the Choctaw ancestors. The pottery that I make is from hand-dug clay from dozens of locations in Choctaw country and different areas that I spend time in. Temper is a material mixed with the clay to keep it from cracking. I use the tempers appropriate for the different styles I work in. All of my pottery is hand-built and it's all fired traditionally in a wooden bond fire using the hands and eyes as the temperature gauges. Each piece is fully functional. We cook in and eat out of them all the time at Nan Awaya Farm and for demos and classes for Choctaw Nation.
Traditional pottery is the best of three worlds. First, you get to put your hands in the earth and shape it Then, you get to "play" in the fire. Finally, you get to enjoy food out of the pieces you make. While every step is enjoyable, firing is my favorite part of the process. I've done 350 traditional firings and counting. Over the past dozen years, I've been privileged to teach hundreds of traditional pottery classes for Choctaw Nation and the other Choctaw Tribes as our community works to revitalize this importat traditional art.
Use the right arrow on the image below to peruse some of my pottery work. Double click if you're browsing on a cell phone.