Gateway To The Copper Corridor


2019 Summer Gateway, Visitors Guide.

San Carlos

Apache Potter teaches class on pottery making

By Susanne Jerome

Staff Reporter

Marlowe Cassadore,


of the San Carlos

Apache Cultural Center

hosted potter, Sheldon

Nunez-Valardy, a Jicarilla

Apache from New Mexico

to teach a week-long class

in pottery making.

Nunez-Velardy brought

some micaceous clay from a

special place in New Mexico.

The clay is full of tiny flakes

of mica which made it shine.

All week his class of wouldbe

potters coiled their pots

and then smoothed and polished

them under his eye until

they shown, round and stylish

and ready to be fired.

In the old days there were

no electric kilns, and the

Apache didn’t build clay ovens.

They used a fire. According

to Velardy they used to

heat the pots gradually up to

Susanne Jerome/Gateway

In the old days there were no electric kilns, and the Apache

didn’t build clay ovens. They used a fire.

about 500 degrees by putting

them around a campfire and

rotating them while they were

heating. He said that he had

tried the process once to see if

it would work, and it did, but

it took forever.

Today they stacked the pots

on trays and heated them in

the Peridot Head Start’s oven.

On Friday morning they put

the pots in the oven for three

hours, moving the temperature

up from 200 to 500 degrees.

When they removed them at 1

p.m., they had been at 500 degrees

for an hour. Now they

were pre-treated and could be

fired without cracking.

They put a grate over the

coals of a fire they had been

preparing and stacked the pots

face down on it. It was hot

work at one in the afternoon.

After the pots were stacked

there was a flurry of activity

as the potters quickly leaned

slim sticks of kindling against

the grate and against the pots

on the grate. Finally, they put

kindling all over the top of the

carefully constructed pile of

pots. As they put the pieces

of wood in place, the kindling

was catching fire from the fire

under the grate, so they had to

step lively. In a few minutes

the blaze had completely consumed

the wood and had fired

the pots. Many pots had black

marks on them from the blaze,

but as Nunez-Velardy explained,

those were not flaws

but characteristics of the pots.

During the fire Tony Belvado

kept watch with a hose

as the fire showed some ambition

to spread from its pit, and

he drowned the fire thoroughly

after the pots had been carefully

removed using a hooked

metal pole.

In the last week, people had

been building wickiups, and

the next weeks will feature


Susanne Jerome/Gateway

Gateway - Summer 2019

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