Lorraine Williams-Yazzie

Lorraine Yazzie
Lorraine Williams-Yazzie

Lorraine Yazzie was the daughter-in-law of Navajo pottery matriarch Rose Williams. Alice Cling and Susie Crank were her sisters-in-law. She learned a lot about making pottery from the in-laws. That all changed when she divorced her husband, George. Now she goes by her maiden name, "Lorraine Yazzie," but until that gets out into the general population more, she still sometimes refers to herself as "Lorraine Williams-Yazzie."

Born in 1955, Lorraine grew up in the Kayenta - Teec Nos Pos area. Her mother was a traditional Navajo herbalist, her father a traditional Navajo medicine man. She learned to do weaving, beadwork and sand paintings but she never learned to draw. She also never put her hands in clay until after she married George Williams. Then she learned from the in-laws.

With all the tribes, it's good to not compete directly with others in the family, especially the in-laws who taught you. As Rose Williams and her daughters never painted anything, Lorraine started drawing patterns she knew on her pots. Working with a knife one day she accidently cut through a piece. Then she made the hole larger and it worked for her. Now she adds cutouts to many of her pieces.

Lorraine once told me she had epilepsy all her life. People thought she had a taboo, not knowing it was epilepsy. When she's making pottery, that epilepsy doesn't manifest. As she said, "I found that working with clay kept it away."

Lorraine likes to make tall jars and decorate them with bands of sgraffito and painted Navajo weaving designs. Then, after she fires her pots, she gives them a coating of pinon pine pitch. I have seen some large more round jars from her, some with sgraffito and painted yei designs, some lightly carved, but all made of the same brown Black Mesa clay. For coloring, Lorraine relies more on her painted designs on a piece than on any fire clouds that may occur. Unlike many Navajo potters she doesn't build her fires with an eye to produce fire clouds, she'd rather preserve the purity of any designs or decorations she's added.

Lorraine was featured in Susan Peterson’s book and traveling exhibition Pottery by American Indian Women - The Legacy of Generations. That exhibition toured leading museums across the United States. She has also been invited to the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC to demonstrate how she makes traditional Navajo pottery.

Lorraine regularly participates in shows at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Tucson Museum of Art and the Santa Fe Indian Market. She's earned Best in Show ribbons at the Heard and at the Museum of Northern Arizona. She's also earned 1st and 2nd Place ribbons at the Heard, Santa Fe Indian Market and the Tucson Museum of Art.

Lorraine usually signs her pieces on the bottom with variations of "LWY" with the letters connected directly to each other. Sometimes she adds "Rain" to that. Some of her pieces are signed "Lorraine Yazzie."

Navajo rug design on a brown jar
Brown jar with a Navajo rug design
3 1/2 in H by 5 in Dia
Band of Navajo rug design around the neck of a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with a band of Navajo rug design around the neck
9 1/4 in H by 6 in Dia
Band of Navajo rug design around the neck of a brown jar
Brown jar with a band of Navajo rug design around the neck
12 1/2 in H by 10 in Dia
A band of Navajo rug design around the neck of a brown jar
Brown jar with a band of Navajo rug design around the neck
10 1/2 in H by 7 1/2 in Dia
Navajo rug design on a brown jar
Brown jar with a Navajo rug design
10 in H by 10 in Dia
Navajo rug design on a tall neck jar
Tall neck jar with Navajo rug design
10 in H by 7 in Dia
Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating on a tall neck jar
Tall neck jar with Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating
11 in H by 8 in Dia
Navajo rug design on a tall brown jar
Tall brown jar with Navajo rug design
5 in H by 3 1/2 in Dia
Navajo rug design on a tall neck brown jar
Tall neck brown jar with Navajo rug design
5 3/4 in H by 3 1/2 in Dia
Navajo rug design and poine pitch coating on a large tall neck brown jar
Large tall neck brown jar with Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating
11 1/2 in H by 8 3/4 in Dia
Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating on a tall neck brown jar
Tall neck brown jar with Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating
11 in H by 8 1/2 in Dia
A Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating on a tall neck brown jar
Tall neck brown jar decorated with a Navajo rug design and pine pitch coating
6 3/4 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Long neck on a brown jar decorated witha Navajo rug design
A Navajo rug design decorates the long neck of a brown jar
7 in H by 4 3/4 in Dia
Band of Navajo rug design around the neck of a square mouthed brown jar
Brown jar with a square opening and band of Navajo rug designs around the neck
8 3/4 in H by 6 in Dia
Band of Navajo carpet design around the neck of a polychrome jar with a square opening
Square opening on a polychrome jar decorated with a band of Navajo carpet design
11 1/4 in H by 9 3/4 in Dia
Band of Navajo carpet design around the rim of a large brown jar
Large brown jar with a square opening and band of Navajo carpet design
10 1/4 in H by 11 in Dia
Yei figures and Navajo carpet design on a tall brown jar
Tall brown jar decorated with Yei figures and Navajo carpet design
12 3/4 in H by 10 1/2 in Dia
Band of Navajo carpet design on a brown wedding vase with a twisted handle
Brown wedding vase with a twisted handle and band of Navajo carpet design
10 in H by 6 in Dia
Square opening and Navajo carpet design on a brown jar
Brown jar with a square opening decorated with Navajo carpet design
8 3/4 in H by 8 1/2 in Dia
Twisted handle and Navajo carpet design on a brown wedding vase
Brown wedding vase with twisted handles and a Navajo carpet design
11 in H by 6 in Dia
Navajo carpet design on a tall brown jar
Tall brown jar decorated with a Navajo carpet design and coated with pine pitch
8 1/2 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Navajo carpet design on a brown jar with a squarish opening
Brown jar with a squarish opening and decorated with a Navajo carpet design
11 1/4 in H by 10 1/4 in Dia
Navajo carpet design on a brown jar
Brown jar decorated with a Navajo carpet design
2 1/2 in H by 4 in Dia
Pine pitch costing on a brown jar decorated with a Navajo carpet design
Brown jar with a Navajo carpet design and coated in pine pitch
12 1/4 in H by 10 1/4 in Dia

Navajo Potters