Paguate, New Mexico, one of the many villages of Laguna Pueblo, and just about an hour east of Albuquerque is home to Pueblo potter Max Early. Early saw the height of his pottery career during the 1990s, but later, the now forty-something potter, decided to further his education going back to school to get his degree in English with an emphasis in poetry and fiction. In order to do that, Early took a break from his pottery, but now he's back with a whole new concept--the infusion of his poetry and pottery.
This year, Early created a traditional pot with bold designs, for which he is known , and then added the text of one of his poems about making pottery around the neck of the piece. Unfortunately, shortly after I made the journey out to Laguna to interview him, the piece collided with shards from another piece of pottery that broke apart during the firing process. It caused an unrepairable crack from top to bottom. This kept Early from submitting the pot for judging at the 2010 SWAIA Indian Market. It was to be his comeback piece. I saw Early at Market on Saturday, and while the piece seems defeated, Early is not. He is proudly displaying the pot at his booth throughout the entire Indian Market weekend. It sits amidt wonderful depictions of turkeys, ducks and miniature pieces made by Early and his aspiring potter sons David and Alan.
As a man who comes from a Native and Irish background, Early brings a unique perspective to the Pueblo experience and pottery-making process. As a young man, Early was told that working with clay could only be done by women in the village, but Early has pushed the envelope to make himself one of the finest potters in Laguna.
As part of my interview with the artist, he took me around Paguate to get a feel for the Pueblo life that infuses Early's pottery with a gentleness and charm that embodies the artist himself. We spent time visiting abandoned buildings, his grandmother's old home, which now serves as Early's clay grinding house, and learning about some of the history. Watch Early talk about his pottery-making process and get a glimpse into Pueblo life at Paguate HERE: