Betty Manygoats


Manygoats s a Navajo potter who learned to make pottery from her paternal grandmother. Among the Navajos, pottery making most frequently is passed down from mother todaughter, or in the case of Manygoats, from grandmother to granddaughter. Since the early nineteenth century, most Navajo pottery has consisted of un-paintedcooking vessels along with ceremonial bowls, pipes, and other ritual objects. Although she has created a variety of typical Navajo forms, such as bowls and jars,Manygoats is best known for her large, Pueblo-style double-spouted wedding vases.Manygoats makes her pottery according to time-honored techniques. Both utilitarian and ceremonial pots are handmade in the same traditional Navajo way: after theclay is cleaned and mixed, the vessel is built from coils that are added until the pot has reached the desired size and shape. During the next step, the coils are smoothed out with a river stone or piece of gourd. A decorative fillet is added below the rim.When the pot is finished, it is dried in the sun until it is ready for the outdoor firing process. After firing, while the pot is still warm, it is coated inside and out with piñon pitch, a distinctive Navajo technique.Manygoats’ work is distinguished by the innovative creation of low relief, appliquéd figures such as hogans
(Navajo dwellings), sheep, cactus plants, yuccas, horses, people, and, most especially, horned toads. On occasion, Manygoats further embellishes the appliquéd features using household paint, to enhance her ornamentaldetail. Her appliquéd forms always reflect objects that are a familiar part of everyday Navajo life. From time to time, she also makes freestanding animal figures, usuallyof horses, cows, and sheep. Although most of her work is unsigned, she occasionally adds her initials, “BM” or “BBM” (Betty Barlow Manygoats), on the bottom of the pot, either incised in the clay or written on with a felt-tipped pen.Manygoats lives in the Shonto-Cow Springs (Arizona) region of the Navajo Nation, an area that is home to several other Navajo potters. Her imaginative potteryhas won numerous awards, at both the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and the Intertribal Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico. Like most traditional Navajo potters, she never submits her own work at these or other shows; her pottery is submitted most often by traders and gallery owners. Manygoats is fostering another generation of innovative Navajo potters by teaching the art to some of her daughters.