Hopi Art

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Art From the Hopi Tribe

Hopi art dates back to the Hisatsinom, who as far back as 7,000 B.C. weaved baskets, using split willow, rabbitbrush, and skunkbrush. Their coiled baskets were so tight that they could use them to carry water. They also made baskets for cooking by dropping heated stones into them. Today’s Hopi baskets deviate little from the early traditions, and contemporary weavers make plaques, trays, collectors, bowls, and ceremonial and other traditional baskets.N17

Hopi Pottery

Hopi pottery maker. Arizona. 1913. Photo by Roland W. Reed. Source – Denver Museum of Nature and Science.


Pottery fabrication came to the Ancient Pueblo Indians later, around 550 A.D., perhaps learned from the Mogollan, from the south.S3 The Anasazi made beautiful, fragile forms of pottery, and more rustic, utilitarian pottery. They made their round bottomed pots for everyday use from a grayish sandstone and shale clay and painted many pots red or black, using yucca brush. Once painted, they fired them outside, on the ground.N32

One also finds pictographs and petroglyphs in their ancient lairs. Strategic placement of the paintings that casts predictably placed shadows on them suggests that they used a calendar system.

Hopi Weaving

The Hopi still carry on their basketry and textile weaving traditions. Today’s Hopi utilize three basket construction methods … wicker (including twining), plaiting, and coiling … to produce pieces with colorful geometric designs. They color materials using dyes from both natural and synthetic sources. Some of the natural dyes include rabbit brush (sivaapi), sumac (suuvi), dune brush (siwi), and yucca (mo:’vi). Yellow, red, and black are the most common colors used.N33

These same dyes also serve to color their textiles. Hopi farmers also produced cotton. So weaving textiles, aside from basketry, also took place in the Hopi pueblos.

The Hopi reputation for tight, intricately woven rugs and textiles spun from short-staple cotton thread brought them commerce from neighboring tribes and early Europeans. The Hopi used upright looms to weave blankets, cloth, clothing, ceremonial garb, and items for religious rituals and weddings.N34


Hopi man weaving a blanket. Arizona. ca.1900. Photo by C.C. Pierce. Source – University of Southern California Libraries

Hopi Katsina (Kachina) Dolls

Traders know the name “kachina” (kah-chee-nah) that refers to the Hopi spiritual beings portrayed in their carved dolls. However, the Hopi, use the word, “katsina” (kahts-ee-nah) to refer to one of these beings and “katsinam” to refer to several. The katsina plays an important roll in Hopi spirituality and mythology, and it has become a figurehead for the Native Americans of this region.N35

Hopi Pottery

Hopi potters still make marvelous earthenware ceramics, and their especially known for their vivid colors and distinct patterns. One may find both utilitarian style and more ornate collectables on the market today.N36

Hopi Jewelry and Silversmithing

The Hopi have mastered the expression of their artistic spirituality in their jewelry and silversmithing. The Hopi adorn their jewelry and other pieces with symbolic and abstract designs, often inspired by the artistic expression of the ancient ones or in reverence of animals or plants, like corn, that play an important role in their culture.

Many pieces from this group utilize the overlay technique, in which the jeweler overlays a base piece of silver with a second piece of silver of the same shape. The jeweler cuts the second silver layer with a jeweler’s saw, revealing the textured, or etched, oxidized layer below. The oxidation process turns the silver a dark black.N16

Hopi sterling silver geometric overlay ring

Hopi Ceremonial Performance

Artistic expression by Hopitu Shi-nu-mu through ceremonial performance also makes the Hopi outstanding among the southwestern natives. Today they allow visitors to attend and observe many of their ceremonies that include dances. They are especially well-known for their Snake Dance, and the katsina plays an important roll in their ceremonial life.

Today, Hopi painters, sculptors, glass blowers, and other artists also bring less traditional wares to the Native American market. Like other indigenous peoples, they have adapted to the modern market and incorporated new skills into their art to bring the Hopi Way to the world.N15