Nampeyo

Around 1680, Nampeyo and her family fled the Spanish to settle near First Mesa, Arizona. For 2,000 years, Pueblo peoples like Nampeyo were potters, but pots had become merely functional, lacking design and artistry. From her Tewa grandmother, young Nampeyo learned traditional pottery, but intellectual curiosity fueled her natural talent.

Years later, when her husband worked on a nearby archeological dig, Nampeyo borrowed pencils and paper, went to the site, and copied prehistoric Sikyatki designs. Translating these motifs, she also made her own clays and pigments. Nampeyo fashioned her pots with a unique take on color, design, and form. In time, her work was acquired by the Smithsonian, and she was honored as the greatest maker of Indian pottery alive. Nampeyo elevated the art of Native American ceramics.

Interestingly enough, Nampeyo couldn't read or write, and never signed a single piece. Yet this talented artist rescued a prehistoric art form and changed the economic fate of Native Americans. When we believe our own forms of speaking and presenting are set in stone, that's the time to reinvent and retool. Toss out traditional structure. Include your insights and observations. Develop stories that colorfully deliver the meat of your material. Be courageous and honor your unique perspective and style. Channel Nampeyo to advance the ancient form of public speaking.

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