Award-winning Ida Sahmie is known best for her pastiche of Navajo designs and Hopi pottery techniques. “Ida’s work straddles both cultures, and she reached the celebrity plateau years ago,” note Allan Hayes, John Blom, and Carol Hayes in Southwestern Pottery: Anasazi to Zuni.
Born in Pine Springs, Arizona, in 1960, Ida grew up in a Navajo family, learning to weave even though it wasn’t her calling. In the 1980s, she married Andrew “Louie” Sahmie and moved to the Hopi reservation. There, Ida learned to make pottery from Priscilla Namingha, granddaughter of famous Hopi potter Nampeyo, and her mother in law. According to the Heard Museum, “Ida watched Priscilla making pottery and was moved by the beautiful work. Wanting to do something with her hands, Ida was encouraged by her mother-in-law to make some pots. She started out making small pots, which she fired along with Priscilla’s work. Her original designs were simple Hopi based patterns. Ida soon realized that she needed to make her own design based on her Navajo heritage.”
Now, Ida draws on both Navajo and Hopi traditions, depicting Navajo designs – including scared imagery that must be exact or sometimes requires a Night Chant ceremony – and preferring a peachy mix of natural white and yellow clay dug on the Navajo reservation, but using Hopi coiling and firing techniques. “Personally, I feel I have a unique talent with pottery. It’s a combination of both Hopi and Navajo, though I feel it should be more Navajo because I am a Navajo,” she notes in Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery.
Among other accolades, Ida won best of class and second place at the 2010 Navajo Nation Fair. Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian and the Dallas Museum of Art.