Mildred Moore and Bonnie Sears

Powhatan Blackware Pottery

Master Artist
Mildred Moore
Apprentice
Bonnie Sears
Folkway
Powhatan Blackware Pottery
Location
King William County
Mildred Moore and Bonnie Sears. Photo by Morgan Miller/Virginia Folklife Program.
Mildred Moore and Bonnie Sears. Photo by Morgan Miller/Virginia Folklife Program. 

The Pamunkey Indian potters have been creating their distinctive blackware pottery since before the first contact with Europeans in 1607. Born and raised on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, Mildred Moore learned the art of traditional Powhatan Blackware as a child from the elder women at the pottery school. Mildred is now one of the few women still practicing this important tradition. She taught her apprentice Bonnie Sears to make the pottery using the hand-coil method without a pottery wheel, with clay processed from burnt mussels shells. The women dig their clay from the same vein in the Pamunkey River that has been used by the elder women of the Pamunkey for centuries.

I think everybody wants to get closer to their culture, to who they are. Working with this clay is just one little piece of that, but it’s something that you can really touch. In our tribe we’ve lost so much. This pottery is one of the few things we have left. When it dies, a part of our culture will be gone forever. That’s why I want to learn all I can from Mildred. I want to be sure that it keeps going.
-Bonnie Sears