Teresa Wildflower

Teresa Wildflower is a member of the Chemehuevi tribe. The Chemehuevi are the southernmost grouping of the Southern Paiutes (the Southern Paiutes traditionally lived in the Colorado River basin and the Mohave Desert in northern Arizona and southeastern California, southern Nevada and southern Utah). Teresa was born in 1935 and became probably the most recognized of Chemehuevi potters.

It's hard to find much information but Teresa most likely grew up on the Colorado River Indian Reservation near Parker, AZ. Those were the days when Federal authorities were actively recruiting Native Americans from high desert tribes to migrate to other reservations. The Colorado River Reservations were primarily occupied by the Mohave tribe but they saw a number of incoming Hopi and Navajo families. And when Parker Dam was closed and Lake Havasu began to fill, the Chemehuevi Reservation itself was half-flooded. Many of the Chemehuevi were relocated to the Colorado River Indian Reservation.

Going by the shapes she made, the designs she painted and the exquisite quality of her work, Teresa most likely learned to make pottery from one of her Hopi neighbors. There was a bit of a renaissance in Chemehuevi traditional arts beginning in the 1990's when the tribal casino opened but Teresa was established well before that. I found records of a two-week show of her work in the summer of 1982 at Andrews Pueblo Pottery in Albuquerque.

Teresa's specialty was miniatures and she loved to make them. The Chemehuevi pottery tradition was almost wiped out a century before when the Chemehuevi were confined to reservation land far from their desert home. There are examples of older Chemehuevi pottery available in museum collections but they look very Hohokam-influenced. The Chemehuevi seem to have learned from the Mohave and the Mohave have passed the knowledge down from ancient times. Because of that, it's hard to see anything in Teresa's pottery that makes it specifically Chemehuevi. However, her work is light-hearted and reflects a way of looking at nature that is simple, direct and exquisitely to the point.

Teresa's pieces are very well made and meticulously painted. Her subject matter is wide, ranging from tropical birds to penguins to lizards, frogs, bears and coyotes. Of special note are her lidded jars: the lids are sculpted and painted wildlife, also done to exacting scale.

Her pottery is exacting, made to a 1:12 scale (1 inch is equal to 1 foot). Confusing Teresa's work with Hopi, Zuni or Cochiti pieces is easy as she created with styles and shapes and designs from all across the Southwest Native American pottery world.

Teresa isn't producing pottery any more. She did teach her daughter, Niadi, her methods and processes.

4-panel feather and geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar A miniature polychrome jar decorated with a 4-panel feather and geometric design
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Polychrome miniature masked dancer figure A miniature polychrome masked dancer figure
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Polychrome miniature jar with a bird, branch and geometric design A bird, branch and geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar
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Polychrome miniature jar with a band of geometric design A band of geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar
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An otter lid and a wave geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar A miniature polychrome jar decorated with an otter lid and a wave geometric design
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Polychrome miniature jar with a band of geometric design A band of geometric design decorates this miniature polychrome jar
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Polychrome miniature jar with a branch, flower and lady bug design A lady bug, branch and flower design on a miniature polychrome jar
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Polychrome miniature jar with a chokecherry branch design and a red cardinal lid A band of chokecherry design on a miniature polychrome jar with a red cardinal lid
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A miniature howling coyote figure with a howling pup A miniature howling coyote figure with a howling pup
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Polychrome miniature jar with a watermelon design and koshare on the lid A watermelon design decorates this miniature polychrome jar with a koshare on the lid
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Polychrome miniature jar with a geometric design and bald eagle on the lid A geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar with a bald eagle sitting on the lid
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Polychrome miniature jar with a penguin and geometric design and a penguin lid A band of penguin and geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar with a penguin lid
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A miniature polychrome jar with a band of geometric design and a raptor sitting on the lid A raptor sits on the lid of a miniature polychrome jar with a band of geometric design
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Polychrome miniature jar with a geometric design and finch on the lid A geometric design decorates this miniature polychrome jar with a finch on the lid
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Miniature grandmother storyteller figure with 7 children 7 children on a miniature grandmother storyteller figure
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Polychrome miniature jar with a pine cone design and a chipmunk munching on a pine cone on the lid A pine cone design on a miniature polychrome jar with a chipmunk eating a pine cone on the lid
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