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Clay Beings: Storytellers and the Reshaping of Ceramic Figures
October 1–5, 2000

Clay Beings: Storytellers and the Reshaping of Ceramic Figures” was the title of the Convocation held at the Indian Arts Research Center in October 2000. Facilitating the convocation was 2000 Dubin Artist Fellow, Nora Naranjo-Morse. The event brought together ten outstanding Native American clay artists for four days of discussion. The topics ranged from the evolution of the storyteller figure to particular artistic techniques, and from marketing concerns to the nurturing of tradition. “The discussion in this group was very lively from the outset,” commented Lee Goodwin, IARC Acting Director.

During the convocation week, Babcock presented a colloquium with slides, giving a history of the storyteller figure. She shared stories from her relationship with Helen Cordero (Cochiti), who is credited with creating the first storyteller, modeled after her grandfather. After a long period of figurative works being under appreciated, the storyteller initiated a general renaissance of clay figures and has, according to Babcock, become an “icon of the Southwest.”

At a reception for the convocation participants, a selection of storytellers and other ceramic figures from the IARC collection, as well as examples of the participants’ work, were displayed in the vault. Members of SAR were able to talk with the artists and compare the contemporary works with those from previous eras.

These annual artists’ convocations are modeled after the SAR advanced seminars that convene leading scholars to discuss “cutting edge” concerns in anthropology and related disciplines. As with the seminar experience, a group of accomplished Native American artists are invited to reside at the Seminar House for several days, where they meet day and night, conducting discussions in the IARC vault and using objects from the collection to stimulate their exploration. A book, published by SAR Press, will memorialize each Covocation, making the experience available to the public.


Nora Naranjo-Morse, Facilitator
Santa Clara

Elizabeth Abeyta

Barbara A. Babcock
Regents’ Professor and Founding Director, Comparative Culture and Literary Studies Program at University of Arizona

Virgie Bigbee

Tony Dallas

Ignacia Duran

Laura Fragua-Cota

Armond Lara

Stella Teller

Maxine Toya

Mary Trujillo