Lukfi Atoba: Made from the Earth
To me, traditional pottery is the best of three worlds. First, you get to "play in the mud". Then, you get to "play in the fire". When it's all said and done, you get to cook and serve food from what you've made. On a deeper level, traditional pottery connects through time. There's nothing quite like seeing a human fingerprint in a 1000-year-old piece of pottery and realizing that it could have been left by your own grandmother. Traditional ceramics tie in to Choctaw creation stories as well as early oral histories. One of the Choctaw terms for pottery literally means "made from the earth". 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.
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, Amy and I have been privileged to teach hundreds of traditional pottery classes for Choctaw Nation and the other Choctaw Tribes as our community works to revitalize this important 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.