Born in 1915, Rose Williams is credited as being the modern matriarch of Navajo potters, but she herself learned the traditional way to make Navajo pottery from her aunt, Grace Barlow. Not all Navajo potters trace their lineage to Rose but many do. Many are close relatives.
Rose learned very little English (many Navajo never learn English, speaking Navajo and some Spanish all their lives). She lived in a small frame house in the Cow Springs area of the Navajo Nation and almost never left home.
Rose became a recognized potter on the reservation early and made a lot of ceremonial pottery early in her career. But the majority of her pottery was made for the marketplace: she had kids to raise. She taught her daughters, Alice Cling and Susie Crank, to make excellent pottery, too. When her son George married, she taught his wife Lorraine to make pottery.
In the 1980s Rose started making large deep pots, the kind used for cooking large meals. Most were more than 24 inches tall and more than 12 inches in diameter. The only decoration she ever added was a small rope biyo' below the rim. Many of those pieces were purchased by tribal members to be used as drums. Many are still in use. Some of her cooking pots are still in use, too.
Rose passed on in early 2015. She was almost 100 years old. She never signed a pot herself until she was in her 80s.