The artist writes: “Unemployment is extremely high on the Navajo Nation. Through my adult life, I have been employed sporadically among many trades…. After dabbling in making pottery for over a decade, it is only very recently that I considered myself a potter. I am self-taught. At the moment, I consider myself more serious and engaged with my pottery.” (He won the coveted Best of Class award at Indian Market a few years ago, and is now considered among the finest of contemporary Native potters.)
The vessels I make are of traditional natural materials. First, I gather moist pure clay from local riverbed sources, which is then dried three to four months in the sun. When dried, the resulting clumps are crushed, ground and sifted into fine powder. Temper is also gathered and processed; volcanic ash, silt, or pottery shards may be used. After hand mixing, the clay is set aside for curing. Finally, after many months of preparation, the clay mixture is ready for use. Firing is an all-day process. Cedar wood is used because it burns efficiently and (at) high temperatures. Fire clouds happen by chance. When finished, debris, such as ash, is carefully removed. Refined pinion tree sap is then swabbed inside and out with a stick while the vessel cools. After the vessel cools, the pottery is polished with a cotton cloth to a high sheen.” (Note: This method is used, in general, by all Navajo potters, traditional or contemporary.)
Samuel has won numerous awards since 2002, including the Judges’ Choice Award at the 2008 Heard Museum and the Best of (Pottery) Class at the 2009 Santa Fe Indian Market. He has been awarded Blue and Red ribbons at both the Santa Fe Indian Market, and Heard Museum Market, and in both 2005 and 2006 won Best of Pottery at the Southwest Museum Indian Marketplace.