The characteristics of American Indian pottery vary depending on the nation or tribe that produces it, but common themes include gracefully curving lines and geometric designs in natural pigments. Some pottery includes representations of deities or mythological stories.
Most American Indian pottery is produced by Southwestern nations, particularly the Pueblos. However, it was found among West Coast tribes as well. The West Coast tribes made their pottery out of clay, but they are better known for their baskets and woodwork, so pottery creation has generally fallen out of favor among modern artisans as of 2015.
Each American Indian nation has a distinctive style of pottery, so experts can identify where a piece came from just by looking at it. Acoma Pueblo, for example, uses a black-on-white design of fine lines to create intricate abstract patterns, while the Hopi often depict animals or mythological figures. The most common colors are black, off-white, red and terracotta. Different nations combine these colors in different ways. Some American Indian pottery shows evidence of trade with other nations. Acoma pottery often includes parrots, which they learned about through trade with Central American nations.
The arrival of Europeans and the growing interest in American Indian pottery did change some traditional styles. The Navajo did not traditionally decorate their pottery and used more primitive techniques, but some artists took an interest in pottery. The Navajo Nation now has a distinctive style of fine pottery.