The signature by potters on their vessels is almost universal today. Before 1940 many potters did not speak English, and very few wrote it. If a potter’s name was written on the bottom of an old pot it was more than likely written by the trader who sold it or by the buyer. Pots that were made from the 1930s to the 1950s had crude signature’s that dealers often call “graffito” (An ancient drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface.) Acoma potters once believed that signing their work was an inappropriate expression of ego. Potter Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso began signing her pottery in the mid-1920s. Santa Clara, Acoma, and Laguna followed soon after.
Bottom collectors buy pots for the signature on the vessel rather than for the pot itself. Golden Bottoms are pots that have been signed by the following famous potters: Maria & Julian Martinez, Fannie Nampeyo, Lucy Lewis, Lela Gutierrez, Rose Gonzales, and Marie Chino (Hayes & Blom, 1996). The Luther Bean Museum has two Golden Bottoms! These pots are by potters Maria & Julian Martinez and Lela Gutierrez. I invite you to stop by this Spring Break and see the wonderful collection of artifacts on display. Enjoy.
Hayes, Allan and John Blom. Southwestern Pottery Anasazi to Zuni. Northland Publishing. 1996.