Fannie Nampeyo

Fannie Nampeyo (1900-1987) was the youngest of the three daughters of Nampeyo of Hano. It is said that she got the name "Fannie" from either health care workers or missionaries but her given Hopi name was "Popongua" or "Popong-Mana" (meaning: Picking pinons). She attended the Polacca Day School as a youngster, making it through third grade. That was the end of her formal education but not the beginning of her pottery career. As a teenager she worked for several years doing housecleaning at the Hubbell Trading Post before she began working with clay. Fannie was known to be "tempestuous" in those days, there was a lot of friction between her and her mother.

She married Vinton Polacca in the early 1920's and that seems to have calmed her temperament down. That's when she was finally able to work productively with her mother. She learned to make the shapes and paint the designs. Then she began painting pots for her mother as Nampeyo's eyesight was failing.

Nampeyo could turn out pots faster than Fannie could paint them so the painting chores were divided among Fannie, Daisy Hooee, Annie Healing and, to a lesser amount, a couple other nieces (like Lena Charlie).

Fannie also helped her father with polishing the pots. She signed some of those early works as "Nampeyo" because her mother could neither read nor write. Later they began signing pots they made together as "Nampeyo Fannie" while pots she made by herself were signed "Fannie Nampeyo" with her Corn Clan symbol. Pots painted by Daisy and others were signed differently.

"Nampeyo" was actually the title of the matriarch of the Hopi-Tewa Corn Clan at First Mesa and Fannie assumed that role after her mother died. She also made quilts and developed a successful business selling tamales at Keams Canyon. She and her husband were among the first Hopi to become Mormons. All of their seven children completed high school and most went on to college. All of them learned the traditional ways of making pottery and all became excellent potters in their own right.

Fannie was a prolific potter from 1920 to 1987 when she died in a car accident. Over the years she earned many an award and earned a reputation as an outstanding potter. She worked with black-on-yellow and black-and-red-on-yellow in the forms of bowls, jars, saucers, miniatures and bird effigy jars. She also always worked with the designs her mother had made famous.

Toward the end of her life, Fannie's eyesight was failing. In those years she and her daughter, Tonita, were inseparable: like her mother did, Fannie was making pots and Tonita was painting them. Tonita, though, refused to sign her name to any pot she painted for Fannie. When Fannie died, the title "Nampeyo" passed to Tonita. When Tonita died, the title passed to her niece, Melda Nampeyo. As head of the Hopi-Tewa Corn clan, the office (and name) can only be held by a woman.

Four direction bird element design on a Sikyatki-style yellowware jar
Sikyatki-style yellowware jar with four direction bird element design
6 in H by 11 1/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with a migration pattern design
4 3/4 in H by 8 in Dia
Black and red migration pattern design on a yellowware jar
Yellowware jar with black and red migration pattern design
3 in H by 5 in Dia
Red and black bird element and geometric design on a yellowware bowl
Yellowware bowl with red and black bird element and geometric design
2 3/4 in H by 4 3/4 in Dia
Shard design in black on a tan bowl
Shard design in black on a tan bowl
1 in H by 6 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with a migration pattern design
5 1/4 in H by 9 in Dia
Bird element and geometric design on a polychrome yellow ware bowl
Polychrome yellow ware bowl with bird element and geometric design
2 3/4 in H by 5 1/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome yellow ware jar with fire clouds and decorated with a migration pattern design
5 3/4 in H by 7 3/4 in Dia
Medium shard and geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome yellow ware jar decorated with a four-direction medium shard and geometric design
2 3/4 in H by 5 1/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with a migration pattern design
3 3/4 in H by 6 3/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with a migration pattern design
4 3/4 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar decorated with fire clouds and a migration pattern design
6 3/4 in H by 11 1/4 in Dia
Large shard and geometric design on a polychrome jar Polychrome yellow ware jar decorated with a large shard and geometric design
4 3/4 in H by 7 1/4 in Dia
Migration pattern design on a polychrome jar Polychrome jar decorated with a migration pattern design
7 1/2 in H by 11 3/4 in Dia

Hopi Potters