Lucy Leuppe McKelvey – Navajo

Published on July 14, 2014 by Carol

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Pottery by Lucy Leuppe McKelvey

Lucy Leuppe McKelvey is a Native American Indian from the Navajo Reservation. She is known as an innovator in the native american art world.

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The whole philosophy of Navajo culture is one of beauty and harmony. That is what I am doing with my pots; this is what my girls are doing. We are creating Navajo beauty from Navajo materials. Everything you see on a pot has come from Mother Earth, from the clay to the paint – everything. The pots don’t look like traditional Navajo pots, but the uses for those are not needed as much today. There is always a need for beauty. Especially Navajo beauty.– Lucy Leuppe McKelvey

Lucy was raised by her grandparents, her grandmother a Navajo weaver, her grandfather a Navajo medicine man, Lucy did not learn to make pottery until she was in college in 1973. After graduating from college, Lucy taught elementary school in for a few years. She then took five years off to raise her three daughters, Cecilia, Celeste, and Celinda. Self-taught, she introduced clay to her daughters. They eventually learned to contruct pottery. She would invite neighboring potters and learn by watching them as well as examining pottery shards she would find outside her grandmother’s house. Lucy’s ideas are taken from sandpaintings and other Anasazi designs on her pots. This is a break from the traditional pottery designs. Sandpaintings are sacred to the Navajo People. Depicting a sandpainting as a permanent drawing and then burning it is sacrilegious to her people. The Yeis depicted are believed to be far too powerful. A way around this is to leave the design unfinished or to change it in some way so that the Yei is able to escape from the piece.

My grandfather, who was a medicine man, told me that it was okay to paint these designs as long as I did not exactly reproduce a sandpainting figure. That is why, while I take some inspiration from a sandpainting, I always change it and add something different.– Lucy Leuppe McKelvey

Lucy gathers her clays, minerals, and pigments near Low Mountain, Arizona. She hand mixes her clay with temper to develop all paints with materials from Mother Earth. Use of intricate sandpainting designs with graceful curves added to the vessels are the hallmarks of her pottery.

Lucy has been an exhibitor at the famed Indian Market since 1975 and has won numerous awards at various art shows around the country, including the Santa Fe Indian Market.

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