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ANNA MITCHELL - September 1999

The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.

Anna Mitchell is a traditional potter from the Western Band of Cherokee in Oklahoma. The pottery tradition of the Cherokee was disrupted by their removal from their southeastern homeland tot he Oklahoma Indian Territory in the nineteenth century. Anna is widely recognized as being responsible for the revival of traditional handmade pottery among the western Cherokee. She is respected in the field for her use of historic southeastern designs, traditional techniques and local materials. Anna digs all of her own clay from her land in Oklahoma, and constructs her pots with the traditional coiled method, which has remained unchanged for thousands of years.

Her calling as a potter began in 1969 when she and her husband were digging a pond on their farm and noticed some veins of clay in the ground. Her husband had wanted a pipe liked the one pictured in Sequoya's famous portrait, and she took advantage of the clay they had uncovered to construct one for him. Her early projects were pipes and basic shapes, and before long she had attracted local interest in her work. The public's interest led her to research the Eastern pottery traditions in depth and she began incorporating traditional Cherokee and Southeastern designs into her work. Soon a full scale revival was underway

There was a time when waning interest in the traditional arts had Anna very discouraged about their future. Over the years however, she has seen people's interest in their culture and heritage grow and develop. Today she is very optimistic about the future of traditional arts and crafts, and emphasizes how her experience has demonstrated the value of patience.

As a master potter, Anna feels that is very important to pass on her knowledge. She does this through teaching classes on pottery, carrying a tradition from out of the past into the future.

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