Tribal Affiliation: Navajo
Michelle learned to make pottery from her grandmother, Rose Williams, who is considered the matriarch of modern Navajo potters, and from her mother Alice Cling, also a very well-known potter. Michelle has been making fine pottery since the early 1990′s. Her pieces are entirely hand-made, from digging and preparing the clay to hand constructing the pot, and finally to firing it in a wood fire. Each piece is then coated with a thin veneer of melted pine pitch, enhancing the color variations that result naturally from the firing. Michelle was born in Tuba City, AZ and is a member of the Reed People and Towering House clans of the Navajo Tribe.
When gathering clay, Michelle first digs local clay, treats it with water to remove impurities, and then mixes it with a tempering agent to make it strong. For the Navajo, tempering agents may be either old pottery sherds or basalt. She uses the coil method to create her beautiful pottery. By continuing to press and scrape the sides of the pot, she can achieve the thin walls that are characteristic of her beautiful pottery. Michelle fires outdoors, the traditional way. Afterwards the pieces are left out in the sun to dry even further. The final step is coating the vessel with piñon pitch. One last step her mother and grandmother taught her is to highly burnish each piece to a lustrous shine, rather than leaving an unpolished thick coat of pitch, as most other potters do.
Michelle follows her family hallmarks of beautiful pottery – a simplicity of form and a soft surface sheen.