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Traditional Native designs

Traditional methods, contemporary styles

By ZACH MAXWELL
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

   Edmon Perkins is a fourth-generation farmer from Atwood who took up traditional Choctaw pottery less than a decade ago.

   But his reproductions of prehistoric and colonial themes are quickly gaining the attention of aficionados of native designs.

   Perkins will be demonstrating how to coil clay with crushed mussel shell to create pottery bowls, pipes and other figures during Choctaw Days at the Smithsonian in June.

   "I started in 2005 with commercial clay, but even at that point I wanted to do traditional pottery," Perkins said. "I stayed away from electricity so I built a wood-burning kiln."

   In 2009, he began attending Dr. Ian Thompson's pottery classes, which he called "an eye-opening experience." His first invitation to the Smithsonian was a year later, with aboriginal potters from North and South America.

   "This time I'll be going with a lot of friends," he said.

   "You get to visit with people and get into their stories. I'm excited that they have asked me to go. What's really important is getting to visit with my Choctaw friends."

   Perkins was inspired to enter the Choctaw Nation's first art show, where he presented a welded 3D Great Seal. Soon thereafter, he moved into pottery, eventually importing white clay from Moundville, Ala., as well as finding suitable, sand-free clays "down by the creek" on his property.

   "It's amazing to me that you can take something as simple as clay, lukfi nia in Choctaw which translates as fat dirt, and put it in a fire, which destroys almost everything it touches, and it comes out as something useful," Perkins said. "It makes you think about how they first learned to do that."

   Perkins said he is humbled to be a part of the revitalization of Choctaw culture. He draws inspiration from styles found on ancient pottery at places like Moundville as well as more contemporary Choctaw styles.

   Part of his mission is to help Choctaw style pottery take its place among the more celebrated works of southwestern tribes.

   "The southeastern U.S. has a great culture, and it's not represented," Perkins said. "To be part of this, it kind of wells up in me. I'm proud of what Chief Gregory E. Pyle has accomplished and Chief Gary Batton will continue that. It's amazing what they've done for southeast Oklahoma."

Edmon Perkins                                                                                                                    Choctaw Nation
Edmon Perkins turns lukfi nia (Choctaw for "fat dirt" or clay) into traditional style vessels, pipes and other creations.
This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
www.choctawnation.com
www.choctawnationculture.com
 
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