Mimbres artists

Cat. no. 28. Mimbres artists. Sherds and bowl, c. 1000. Ceramic. 4 5/8 x 3 7/8 x 7/8 in.; 2 1/2 x 1 1/4 x 3/8 in. (sherd: fish/basket). 4 x 3 1/4 x 1 1/2 in.; 3 1/2 x 2 7/8 x 1 in. (sherd: human head). 14 x 13 1/4 x 6 in. (bowl). Courtesy of the Museum of Northern Arizona, NA3288.23; NA3288.107; NA3288.3.


My name is Tessie Naranjo. I’m from Santa Clara Pueblo. [Speaking Native Language]. I have a problem with the word “art” because there is no word in Tewa for art. What that means to me is that you use your hands when you felt like making something. And always in times past, you used your hands to make functional things: bowls for eating from, bowls for ceremonial use. It was all about function.

Today the word “art” comes into the picture because of the time that we live in. And for me, I’m still in the mood, or in the mode, of thinking about creating things as functional. When I do pottery, I prefer micaceous clay because that’s a functional clay. I will make bowls. I will try to make bean pots. I will make other things, but only for function.

I have a struggle with decorative artwork. I have an issue. I used to have an issue, I may still have an issue, with the idea even of a museum and what that stands for. If a museum is to be established, and is established, then I become joyful when I know that it is interacting with tribal communities in some way. So that there is a relationship that is established. But just for decorative displays…I…I cannot go there. I cannot.


The woman or women who created this work may have descendants in more than one contemporary Native-language community. In an effort to be both respectful and accurate, Mia has left this label untranslated.



The majority of Mimbres pottery displayed in museums is unearthed from burial sites and taken from the deceased. Out of respect to all visitors, Mia chooses not to display objects found in Native burials. These works are some of the few Mimbres ceramics that were found in domestic spaces. This is significant because it indicates that bowls of this type were used in everyday contexts. They were made around 900–1000 CE by the Mogollon people, ancestors of present-day Puebloan peoples. Notice the abstract designs executed in a three-dimensional form and the representations of people and animals in the sherds.