What an amazing weekend we just had at Shumakolowa. Ira Wilson, who heads the gift shop, arranged another spectacular event, and we were able to bend our schedule just enough to participate. Ira had the daughters and granddaughter of Lucy Lewis give a panel presentation and tell stories about Lucy, and it was truly memorable.
Ira, having been at Shumakolowa for the past 25 years, is well connected to the Native American communities of New Mexico and Arizona, and he arranges these events to preserve the stories and traditions of this vibrant culture. Over 150 people were enthralled by the stories about Lucy, as these stories are ones you can only get directly from family members.
Lucy’s daughters Carmel, Delores, and Belle were on the panel, as well as two of her granddaughters. Delores, who traveled with her mother while growing up, also served as Lucy’s interpreter for much of her appearances, as Lucy spoke mainly the language of her Acoma pueblo- Keresan. Delores told a number of great stories about some of the trips she and her mother took, such as the one to New York City where they went to see the Rockettes, and the trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, where Lucy fell in love with the beautiful flowers and weather. Through her career, Lucy traveled to many places, including a special trip to the White House in 1977.
Her granddaughter, Shayai, talked about how Lucy always used to wedge the clay with her feet. When asked, Lucy said she didn’t know why she did it, so Shayai speculated that Lucy wanted to be closer to Mother Earth, which provided the clay for her use. Shayai also reminisced about growing up around the Lewis household, surrounded by numerous cousins. Lucy and her husband Toribio operated a working ranch, and raised nine children. The children stayed near the family home in adulthood, except for her oldest son Ivan, who went into the Marines during WWII and then married and relocated to the Cochiti pueblo with his wife Rita.
The family spoke of a household that didn’t have electricity for the longest time, and how they did their homework with kerosene lamps. They played in the arroyos around the home, and went out to collect the cow dung used in firing the pots. Of Lucy’s nine children, seven went on to become potters, some gaining acclaim in their own right.
One of the most touching parts of the discussion about Lucy was when the discussion revolved around Lucy as a real person, not some iconic and untouchable figure. Lucy was warm and generous to everyone she met, and had a very caring personality. She met notable figures like Vincent Price, the Prince and Princess of Monaco (who came to a wedding at Jemez Pueblo), and many others, but always treated them just like normal people, much the way she wanted to be treated. Her family said that Lucy never knew that she was famous, or that the work she did at Acoma Pueblo influenced so many Native American potters, and that was just fine with Lucy.
At the end of the event, nobody wanted to leave. Everyone stayed to chat with the Lewis family, and I was so pleased to get to meet the daughter of Ivan and Rita Lewis, who were close friends of my own mother and father. I told them that I had Ivan’s first pot, and it was a very precious part of my collection. I also have a pot of Lucy’s, one from her daughter Carmel, and another one that I managed to acquire from Ira this afternoon from Lucy’s daughter, Emma. The pots are exquisite, and I have loved looking at them over the years, but now they are even more special to me because I have the memories of this very special event that the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Shumakolowa put on today, helping preserve the immense legacy of this wonderful potter, Lucy Lewis, and helping keep alive the memories of a real person who had an incredible talent.