Tribal Affiliation: Navajo
Rita Manygoats is the daughter of Betty Manygoats (who began the theme of the horned toad). Rita has become a most talented potter as well and hand builds and fires her pieces by the traditional Navajo methods. She was taught by her mother, but she has developed her own unique style of pottery. Her pots often feature appliquéd effigies of the horned toad and ears of corn, as well as lifestyle pictures. Her work is signed “RM” or “R. Manygoats” in a cursive signature style. She has won many awards for her work at multiple different contests including the annual Navajo exhibitions.
Betty Manygoats learned how to pot from her mother, Zonie Barlow, as well as other members of the family. She taught her daughter, Rita, to use Navajo clay from Black Mesa to create her works of art, drying them in the sun. They are then placed in an open-pit kiln and covered with sheep or cow dung. Cedar is the preferred fuel for the kiln, and wherever the wood ash has contact with the clay a brownish gray discoloration results. This discoloration is known as “fire clouds”. Once the piece is fired, warm pinon pitch is applied to the piece making it water tight and ready for use.
Revival of Navajo pottery had its beginnings in the 1950s with encouragement from traders who were looking for a curio item to sell to tourists. It has continued uninterrupted since then. Most potters did not and do not put painted designs on their wares as some believe that painting designs on pottery can cause natural disasters, such as earthquake.