Navajo Pitch Baskets & Pots - Kachina House

From its earliest days as a practical tool to its current status as traditional art, the Navajo pitch pieces have consistently impressed viewers with their grace and beauty. Pitch baskets and pottery have been part of Navajo culture for centuries. Master artisans pass their techniques on to apprentices, and the secrets of the art form move seamlessly from one generation to the next. When you invest in a piece of Navajo pitch basketry or pottery, you receive more than a beautiful basket or bowl. You also receive a tangible part of one of America’s richest artistic traditions. 

The Origins of Navajo Pitch Baskets 

The Navajo began using pitch out of a simple need to waterproof their baskets. By covering baskets with goat dung and then dipping them in heated pitch from the pinon tree, artisans created a vessel that could reliably carry water. In a landscape as dry as the American Southwest, such a tool was a practical necessity. 

An Evolving Tradition 

By the end of the 19th century, pitch baskets and pottery had become forms of cultural expression. Artisans began putting designs on their pots, and clay replaced baskets as the standard vessels. Rose Williams and Alice Cling, a mother-daughter pair of talented Navajo artists, introduced their wares to American museums. With the combination of beauty and history, pitch baskets and pottery wasted no time becoming a mainstay in art museums across North America.

An Enduring Practice Among Navajo Artisans

Pitch pottery remains an immensely popular art form in the Southwest and beyond. Today’s artisans continue to use the traditional methods perfected by their ancestors. The pieces are made from the clay and sand present in local soil. Children collect pinon pitch from living trees,  providing artisans with the raw material they need for their craft. Each pitch pot requires hours of painstaking labor as well as remarkable artistic precision. When you look at the final product,  you can sense the tremendous effort and history behind the piece’s beauty. 

A Wide Selection of Pitch Pots Available 

The ancient practice of waterproofing with pitch has become a traditional art form. You can purchase a contemporary pitch pot from a talented Navajo artisan and help keep the custom alive. Pitch baskets are difficult to obtain, this art form has all but disappeared. Pots are available in many shapes, sizes, and patterns. Each piece carries within it the weight of a shared tradition and the creative flair of the individual artist. Not only will your purchase enliven your home, but it will also make you a part of an enduring cultural practice. By supporting the artists who maintain their people’s traditions, you contribute to the artistry of a diverse, beautiful world.