Pahponee has been working with clay since the early 1980's. She is a descendant of the Kickapoo and Potawatomi Nations, originally from the Great Lakes. Her Kickapoo name, “Pahponee”; translates into Snow Woman.
Pahponee is a self-taught clay artist who has re-learned the traditional pottery methods of her woodland culture as well as learning contemporary pottery making techniques.
The inspiration for Pahponee to learn about pottery making came from a life changing experience. She was taken to see a White Buffalo mother and her White Buffalo calf. White Buffalo are sacred to Native people. It was an auspicious occasion for her to be in their presence. After their meeting, Pahponee had a dream about a White Buffalo pottery vessel. She would keep dreaming of this one specific pot and other beautiful pots, but she did not know how to make them.
Pahponee decided to learn everything she could about pottery making. Her husband Greg, a trained ceramacist, encouraged and advised her with some of his contemporary technical knowledge. She spoke with her Kickapoo and Potawatomi elders and listened to the knowledge they imparted.
Pahponee spent years experimenting with hand-dug clay and commercial clay as well as primitive outdoor dung firing and contemporary kiln firing. The first several years were rough, until she began to develop a better understanding of the rhythm of earth, water, fire and air. Her experimentation and research has resulted in technical excellence in clay properties, tools, hand building, and firing techniques. Whether hand coiling, hand throwing on the potter’s wheel, firing with dung, or in the kiln; it takes an artist with discipline and skill to bring the work to life. Mastering several pottery techniques has provided the platform for Pahponee to create distinctive pottery that expresses her own personal style and innovative spirit. By working with clay from a variety of locations, she has learned that all clay is sacred and alive. Whether it is hand-dug or purchased commercially, working with clay is a sacred activity for her. This involves personal interaction between clay, herself, and as native people say, “All My Relations”.
Her pottery continues to be inspired by her dreams, personal life experiences, and is still being guided by the White Buffalo. The shapes, colors, and textures vary. They are always sophisticated and elegant with clean lines and graceful form. Some develop modeled fire cloud patterns from outdoor firing, others are sculptural with White Buffalo or other animal carvings and some are burnished with petro-glyphs or dragonflies incised into the surface.
When she works on her pottery, it’s as if the rest of the world falls away. It is like being in a dream where each pot tells her its story.
Pahponee has said about her dragonfly pottery, that her people originally came from the Great Lakes, they are a water-based culture and the dragonfly is also originally a water creature. The dragonfly is one of nature's messengers, bringing information from the Spirit World. They are good omens. If a dragonfly lands on you, then it has a message for you. One afternoon while sitting by the pond at her home, she saw the water churning and then a cloud of baby dragonflies in unison emerged from the pond and flew directly over her toward the setting sun. Pahponee believes that dragonflies, which can transform themselves to live in both water and air, are very special.
Today, Pahponee is one of the top Native American potters. She is recognized by her peers and continues to receive awards from nationally juried shows. She continues to experiment with new techniques always striving for excellence in her work. Pottery by Pahponee is still recognizably hers. It has a consistency in grace, beauty, and is meticulous in design.