Tahlequah Daily Press


June 5, 2013

Students build art from the ground up

TAHLEQUAH — One man’s dirt is another man’s treasure – when it can be turned into art.

Students of Crystal Hanna’s pottery class learned to find clay, dig it up and process it into use for creating art objects recently at the Cherokee Heritage Center chapel.

Side by side, the artists mashed, molded, smoothed, drew designs and pinched their creations into the shapes they desired. Chatting as they worked, they shared camaraderie as each student learned the steps in turning clay into art. They happily put finishing designs on their bowls, pipes and other objects.

Instructor Crystal Hanna stopped to visit with each student, offering suggestions, answering questions, always with a soft voice and a smile of encouragement following her words. She shared history, stories and information as she interacted with students.

The class began with a field trip to collect clay. Hanna also brought clay from a neighbor’s pond near Tulsa in case they didn’t find what they needed, or enough of what they needed, for the class. They crushed it, sifted it, moistened it, and “wedged” it, or worked it to get the bubbles out. For this class, they did all the steps except firing the finished pieces.

Tonia Weavel, education director for the Heritage Center, said the class approached the art medium from the beginning, “digging clay from the ground.”

A husband and wife came to the class for a hands-on experience. Mic and Aja Burns of Pocola spent the day together doing something they enjoy.

“We really wanted a hands-on experience – locating, crushing, sifting. You can’t learn that watching someone do it,” Mic said. “I enjoyed wedging this morning more than bashing, turning what would look like dirt into something workable.”

He counts his money when he considers how to spend it.

“I don’t have to buy clay, because it’s all around us. If I would have had dry clay before, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it,” Burns said.

Aja wanted to see the process from the beginning.

“I’ve looked online and seen the process, but actually doing it is the best way to learn,” she said. “Watching her use tools is invaluable. I had yet to be able to use a paddle, and that was pretty cool. Crystal came with a wealth of knowledge and a ton of tools.”

Hanna’s passion for teaching and making pottery, as well as her affection and reverence for her own teacher, comes across as she works and talks with the class.

“It’s amazing that you can take your clay out of the ground and make something permanent,” said Hanna.

Weavel explained a bit of history the students might not have known.

“Crystal learned from what Cherokees consider the master, Anna Mitchell, who rebuilt the traditional pottery movement,” said Weavel.

Hanna picked up the story.

“Anna’s husband was descended from Sequoyah and he wanted a clay pipe like the one Sequoyah had,” said Hanna. “Her children were still at home when she started working with clay. The first pipe she made was not so good, so she did research, and studied all she could about the old ways of doing it. She started a legacy for us today.”

Mitchell mentored Hanna, who carries on the tradition.

“Because I met Anna, [pottery-making] has a true meaning for me,” said Hanna. “I carry on the legacy and tradition she started.”

Hanna met Mitchell because she felt she had to. Usually a shy person, Hanna contacted the Red Earth staff when Mitchell was the “Honored One,” she said.

“In 1988 or ‘89, I really wanted to meet her. They took my name and number at Red Earth and said she would contact me if she was interested. She called me and we talked. She told me she thought I’d make a really good apprentice,” Hanna said.

The began working together that March. Mitchell reminded Hanna of her own mother, who was also a fullblood.

“I miss her,” Hanna said, tears coming to her eyes. “She was very patient and didn’t miss any steps. She’d make you do it.”

Hanna teaches because of Mitchell’s influence.

“That’s what she wanted – whatever we learned, to pass it on to the next generation,” said Hanna. “We need to help keep our traditional arts alive. It keeps our culture alive through art.”

Culture brought Jill Whitekiller from Idaho. She follows the Heritage Center on Facebook.

“My heritage is very important to me. This is an opportunity for me to learn more about my culture and to learn traditional arts and crafts,” Whitekiller said. “It’s important to me to have that and to show my daughters.”

The classes are set to allow the public to experience Cherokee culture on a very personal basis, Weavel said.

“They receive one-on-one instruction,” said Weavel. “The classes give people insight into the art. Many times, people develop a love for it. It can pique their interest and they may continue to study.”

Sally Briggs, of Locust Grove, has taken several classes at the Heritage Center, and this was her fifth class with Hanna. She was putting designs on friendship pipes she made Saturday afternoon.

“I love them all. They’re very interesting, educational, fun, and I like meeting the people who take them. It carries on the heritage of learning the different ways the ancestors did things,” Briggs said.

Many people mistakenly believe all pipes are peace pipes, Hanna said.


To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • green-bldng.jpg City council to discuss ‘green building’

    Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • alcohol-info.jpg Alcohol screening can be critical

    It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
    Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
    Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn-CCSO-2.jpg Law enforcement agencies to get new facility

    Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
    “This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest