Helen Naha, 1st Featherwoman

Helen Naha at work
Helen Naha in her studio

Helen Naha (1922-1993) was the first Feather Woman. She was a daughter-in-law to Paqua Naha (1st Frog Woman) and sister-in-law to Joy Navasie (2nd Frog Woman). Between Helen and Paqua two modern dynasties in the Hopi pottery world were born. Helen's son Burel, daughters Rainy and Sylvia and granddaughter Tyra are recognized potters on their own.

Helen was mostly a self-taught potter but she did get a few tips from watching the in-laws. She began making pottery around 1945 but it was about six years before any of her pots began to sell. At first she was copying Joy's Sikyatki Revival designs but soon decided that didn't work for her. Then she began to develop her own style of pottery and in contradistinction to the designs that came from the diggings in the Sikyatki area, many of Helen's designs came from pot shards found in the ruins of Awatovi, a village that was destroyed shortly after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Her hallmark style was hand-coiled, highly polished pottery with a white slip and black and red decorations. She is the modern originator of the Awatovi star and bat wing patterns. Helen also signed her pots with a stylized feather symbol. Her descendants have signed their pots with their own versions of that feather ever since. The Naha and Navasie families are probably the primary producers of Hopi whiteware (also known as Walpi Polychrome) today.

Helen was recognized by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts through the creation of the Helen Naha Memorial Award, to be given for Excellence in Traditional Hopi Pottery.

Bird eyes and a geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with bird eyes and a geometric design
2 1/4 in H by 3 in Dia
Rain bird and geometric design on a polychrome jar
Polychrome jar with rain bird and geometric design
2 1/2 in H by 2 1/2 in Dia
Geometric design on a black and white jar
Black and white jar with geometric design
1 1/2 in H by 3 in Dia
Geometric design on a black and white jar
Black and white jar with geometric design
2 1/4 in H by 2 in Dia
Red and black Awatovi star and bird element designs on a whiteware jar
Whiteware jar decorated with Awatovi star and bird element designs
5 in H by 5 1/4 in Dia
Geometric design on a polychrome white ware seed pot
Polychrome white ware seed pot decorated with a geometric design
3 3/4 in H by 7 in Dia
Black water and tadpole symbols on a white ladle White ladle decorated with black water and tadpole symbols
1 1/4 in H by 4 in Dia
Stylized migration pattern design on a polychrome jar Polychrome jar with a stylized migration pattern design
5 1/2 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
4-direction bird element and geometric design on a polychrome jar Polychrome jar decorated with a 4-direction bird element and geometric design
5 in H by 5 in Dia
Awatovi star, spiral and geometric design on a black and white jar Black and white jar decorated with an Awatovi star, sprial and geometric design
2 in H by 4 1/2 in Dia
Geometric design on a miniature polychrome jar Miniature polychrome jar with a geometric design
2 in H by 3 1/4 in Dia
Stylized bat wing migration pattern design on a polychrome jar Polychrome jar with a stylized bat wing migration pattern design
2 in H by 4 in Dia
Bird element and geometric design in black and red on a white wedding vase A white wedding vase decorated in black and red with a bird element and geometric design
10.5 in H by 5.75 in Dia

Hopi Potters