“Catawba Pottery is the oldest Native pottery tradition east of the Mississippi River that’s been produced continuously throughout time,” Catawba Potter Keith “Little Bear” Brown explains.
Catawba Pottery used to have solely utilitarian uses but is now modernly created as artwork. Catawba Potters have been collecting their clay from along the Catawba River banks in South Carolina for several generations. Brown says, “We still go to a location that I know that my great, great grandmothers went to, in that same area. We still gather the clay and mix the clay and build it by hand.”
Christopher Judge, the Assistant Director at the Native American Studies Center in Lancaster, South Carolina, weighs in, “I think the unique thing about Catawba Pottery is they are locked into one clay hole, one small spot on the landscape that they feel is the best to do their pottery. If they do use another clay, they will not sign it ‘Catawba’ on the bottom; they will just put their name.”
Brown hopes that “others will see the importance of the tradition…its connection to our past and our future.” Judge adds that “it’s important because it’s one of those unique things about Lancaster…it’s just one of those things, but it’s from a different culture, the culture that was dominant here 300 years ago, so I think that’s the important part.”