Native Crafts Health Effects Project

As part of the HazArt project | Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) of Traditional Indian Artisans and Craftspeople Project (HazArt) | we tested the ambient air quality during a firing of black-on-black (reduced) pottery. This field project was a collaboration of Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Inc., Sandia National Laboratory, and Tewa Women United.

The project was recorded August 1993 by Catalina Reyes of KUNM for National Native News. Her story was broadcast that September.

Principals on the broadcast are

  • Kathy Sanchez (potter) and Evelyn Garcia (assisting the firing), Tewa Women United
  • Pat Herring, CIH, Sandia National Laboratory and
  • myself (M. Pamela Bumsted, Ph.D.), head of the ENIPC environmental office.
  • Mary Attu, doll maker and skin sewer, was also interviewed
  • Field location was the pot firing shed (stable) of the late Maria and Julian Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo, great-grandparents to Ms Sanchez and Garcia. Read earlier post,
    | Maria Martinez’s open-source earthenware |

    This digitized audio file does not represent the quality of the original audiotape. The audio is copyright. I’m sorry the quality is not good. I’ll get it improved eventually. There are photos of the project, in deep storage. These too will one day be available.

    The following picture shows the traditional firing. Please read the story and view the pictures at

    Maria Julian Martinez firing pots
    click to play

  • | Native Crafts health effects audio file in mp3 format. 5 minutes, 19 seconds |

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    There is an interesting history of the founding of National Native News by Gary Fife, currently with the Anchorage Municipal Light and Power. [I rather miss the old format (and Nellie Moore, Sharon McConnell, and Patty Talahongva).]

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    2 responses to “Native Crafts Health Effects Project

    1. There is an interesting series of photos and text about making traditional pottery in the Catawba style. The photos include one of firing and of the preparation of clay. Also included is one of scraping the dried pottery to shape it prior to firing.

      The web link comes via the Inuit Indian Art group,
      16. ROBBINS, EARL; SNAKE BOWL, Catawba – pottery, Date: Fri Mar 9, 2007

      The Pueblos also shape the pot prior to firing by sanding. The fine clay particles can be a lung hazard unless personal protection is used. During the survey of artists for this project, we learned from one artist that her mother had emphysema, but not from smoking but perhaps from a lifetime of pottery making.

      In fact, the firing process, while smoky, would not contribute as much exposure for an artist to hazardous substances as would the sanding or scraping or perhaps the earliest processing of dry clay to prepare it for use. How much difference in exposure and how best to mitigate the health effects needs study, especially among different pottery traditions.

    2. Pingback: Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show « Biocultural Science & Management