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 Fannie Polacca Nampeyo  (1904 - 1987)

About: Fannie Polacca Nampeyo


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Lived/Active: Arizona      Known for: Tewa Indian motif pottery vessels

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BIOGRAPHY for Fannie Nampeyo
1904 (Tewa Village, Hopi Reservation, Arizona)
1987 (Tewa Village, Hopi Reservation, Arizona)


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Tewa Indian motif pottery vessels

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Fannie Nampeyo (Popong Mana, c. 1900-1987)

Fannie was Nampeyo's youngest daughter and arguably the most talented potter among her offspring but also the least compatible with her mother. Her life spanned the lion's share of the 20th century, and she remained a prolific artist almost to the time of her death. In addition to emulating her mother's ceramic virtuosity, Fannie inherited Nampeyo's role as matriarch of the Corn Clan?a vitally important and time-consuming ceremonial position.

Fannie was rebellious, and bucking tradition and mores, married her cousin, Vinton Polacca, son of Tom Polacca, who was the brother of Nampeyo, Fannie's mother.  Instead of adhering to Hopi ways, they raised their seven corn clan children as Mormans, a group who through Tom Polacca made fairly successful inroads at the Hopi Reservation.

Fannie began making pottery in her early 20s, teaming up with her mother by painting the pots that the near-blind Nampeyo was still able to expertly form. She continued to assist Nampeyo until the latter's death while building her own reputation as a solo artist. According to biographer Mary Ellen Blair, Fannie signed Nampeyo's name to early collaborative pieces and then switched to "Nampeyo Fan-nie." The signature "Fannie Nampeyo" appears on pots she made alone. Although never an entrant at Indian Market, Fannie did participate in the Museum of Northern Arizona's Hopi Craftsman Exhibition, winning a blue ribbon in 1961.

As with many artists, Fannie held other jobs and interests throughout her life. She started out as a teen working for Hopi House in the housekeeping department. A tamale business made her famous in the environs of Keams Canyon. She became a devout Mormon and devoted much time to religious affairs as well as to learning Mormon crafts such as quilting. In addition, she inspired and taught all of her children?daughters Elva, Tonita, Iris, and Leah as well as sons Harold, Ellsworth, and Tom?to continue the Nampeyo legacy of pottery making.


Barbara Kramer, Nampeyo and her Pottery

Biography from Adobe Gallery:
Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1904-1987) is perhaps the most famous Nampeyo of Hano Nampeyo's three daughters.  She produced during the period when collectors were seriously collecting signed pottery.  At that time, she was the oldest Nampeyo family member.  She remained true to tradition in vessel construction and design throughout her career.

I watched Fannie in every stage of pottery production, but the thing I remember most was the way she would get out a large jar of Vaseline and rubbed a little bit on her fired pot, then burnish it with an old pair of panty hose that she slipped over her hand.  The result was a beautiful patina.
-Alexander E. Anthony, Jr.

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