Helen Naha (1922-1993) Biography
Helen was born in 1922 on First Mesa in Hano. She is a Hopi-Tewa potter. Helen learned pottery techniques by watching her mother-in-law, Paqua Naha, and her sister-in-law Joy Navasie and then experimenting on her own. At the beginning of her career, she was using old Sikyatki Revival designs, and she eventually developed her style of whiteware known as Walpi Polychrome and decorating them with designs she devised on her own from pot shards she found in the ruins of Awatovi (an ancient abandoned village near First Mesa).
Helen revived designs such as the Awatovi star and batwing patterns. She also used feather, water, spiral, Nachwach-clan handshake, sun, rain, and connected scroll designs. Her unique style distinguished her from other Hopi-Tewa potters, and the beauty of her work made her much in demand among collectors. Helen was known for producing jars, wedding vases, bowls, vases, cylinders, miniatures, and tiles.
Helen taught her children Burel, Sylvia, and Rainy to make pottery, all of whom are award-winning recognized artists. Helen usually signed her pieces with a feather hallmark, and her descendants mostly signed their pots with a stylized version of that same feather along with their name.
Pieces of hers are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and the Heard Museum in Phoenix. The Southwest Association for American Indian Arts honored Helen by creating the Helen Naha Memorial Award for Excellence in Traditional Hopi Pottery. Helen was making pottery almost until her death in 1993.