Lorraine Yazzie was the daughter-in-law of Diné 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 Diné herbalist, her father a traditional Diné 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 watched and learned from his family.
With all the tribes, it's good to not compete directly with others in the family, especially the ones 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's 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 Diné weaving designs. Then, after she fires her pots, she gives them a coating of piñon 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 Diné 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 Diné 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 First and Second 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."