Eric Greenstone Sr.

Eric Greenstone Sr. has been making pottery since 2007.

Many of you have come to love our Farmers’ Market here in Veterans Park, but I’m sure most of you know that we are more than just a “farmers” market.

Merriam Webster defines a “farmer’s market”, a phrase coined in 1905, as, “a market at which local farmers sell their agricultural products directly to consumers”. A walkthrough of our market quickly shows that we not only have agricultural products, but also a wide array of other products and crafts. Our market is a fundamental aspect of the urban–rural interface. Our market allows farmers and consumers an arena to develop relationships of trust and loyalty. It produces personal connections and bonds of mutual interest.

I like to think of our market as similar to what is known as a European market, in that we do sell fruits, vegetables, and plants straight from the farm, but we also offer more. We offer a unique ambiance and a reputation that includes meats, dairy, eggs, nuts, honey, baked goods, snacks, prepared foods, handcrafted jewelry and pottery, clothing, soaps, other arts and more. We even have music and our market is leashed dog friendly, just like in Europe.

Having said that, I want to take a minute and talk about a couple of the crafts I just mentioned: handcrafted jewelry and pottery.

Researchers believe that pottery, objects formed into different shapes for different purposes using clay, is the first synthetic material ever created by humans. The pottery was dried and either fired or baked to produce the desired result. These findings are based on the earliest recorded evidence of some experimentation with clay, some 30,000 years ago at a place known as Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. The clay pieces were made from clay mixed with crushed mammoth bone.

At Odai Yamamoto, in Japan, an archeological dig uncovered the first evidence of pottery manufacture dated to around 16,500-14,920 BC. The earliest pottery was likely produced using an open-fire technique even though this method probably only produced a temperature range of between 1112 to 1652 degrees Fahrenheit — relatively low temperatures on the pottery scale.

It is believed that pottery in North America began with the Native Asian hunter-gather tribes that crossed the land bridge in the Bering Strait from Asia some 25,000 years ago. The earliest Native American pottery appeared about 4,000 BCE. While the most widely known pottery derive from the Southwest Native tribes of the Pueblo and Navajo, the oldest Native American pottery was found on Stalling Island near Augusta, Georgia, dating back to some 4,800 years ago.

Most Native Americans were nomadic in nature until about 2,000 years ago. Agricultural beginnings caused some of the Native Americans to settle down. This led to the necessity of pottery for gathering water, storing grains and liquids, and preserving seeds for next year’s crops. Pottery was not a staple item for nomadic tribes as it was too fragile and didn’t survive the constant traveling.

The craft culminated in the development of cooking pots that were made to sit on rocks in open fires, water jars with indented bases so they could sit comfortably on the heads of water gatherers, and large storage vessels for grains and water. Indian villages all over the United States became known for their different pot shapes and decorative styles. As time progressed regional tribal groups developed their pottery traditions in a variety of ways.

Between 1000 and 1400 AD, a large group of Apache people moved south from Canada. The large group separated into smaller groups and settled in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. These groups became the Navajo Nation, Chiricahua Apache, Mescalero Apache, Jicarilla Apache, and the Plains Apache. Together, the Navajo and Apache are referred to as Apacheans. These tribes were linguistically, archaeologically, and historically members of ancient hunting-and-gathering cultures.

Unlike the rest of America, Southwestern Indian culture has changed little over the centuries. The Southwest also holds the oldest continuous record of habitation on the continent, outside of Mexico. Three additional primary southwestern Native American cultures formed during the “Christian era”: Hohokam, Mogollon, and the Pueblo. But, by the twelfth century, only the Pueblo and Navajo remained.

By the early 17th century, the Navajo had begun to engage in a relatively settled way of life, farming indigenous crops and later on incorporating new products such as sheep and cattle into their economies. The Southwestern pottery made by the Pueblo and the Navajo remains one of the greatest expressions of ceramic art in the world to this day.

Along with their skills in pottery, there is evidence as far back as 8,800 BC that early Indian ancestors shaped stones and shells into jewelry pieces by using a thin stone drill. As the Europeans were migrating to the Americas in the 1500s, they brought beads with them. Soon after Native Indian art crafters began incorporating these beads into their jewelry work. As the Spanish settled into the southwest in the 1850s, the Indians learned silversmithing from them. Before this copper had been the go-to metal for jewelry.

By the early 1900s the native Indian craftsmen were selling their silver and turquoise jewelry to the tourists who began flocking to this area. Turquoise, which represents the “sky” has long been a dominant part of southwest native American jewelry. It is called the “fallen sky stone” and is believed to have life-giving powers and is also cherished for its spiritual connection to Mother Earth. Today the Navajo are world renown for their pottery, turquoise jewelry, and their wool rugs.

At this point I would like to introduce you to one of our own here at the Farmers’ Market. If you are looking for Native American Pottery and jewelry, I can’t think of a better place to find it then right here at the Greenstone Collection Pottery and Crafts booth.

Eric Greenstone Sr. and his wife Charlatta J Francis-Greenstone (CJ), proud members of the Dine’ (Navajo Nation) are the owners of Greenstone Pottery Collection. They craft amazing Navajo pottery. Along with the pottery they have authentic Navajo jewelry handcrafted by relatives along with other Native American jewelry crafted by Zuni special friends. The jewelry is predominantly silver with precious stones inlaid.

Eric, who was working in the respiratory therapy profession, needed a pastime during his time off from work and began doing pottery in 2007. When he retired from his therapy work, his pastime became his full-time employment.

Charlatta, his wife, is a full-time Information Technology professional for the past 15 years, currently working for a Native American casino in Tucson, and helps her husband in a part-time capacity. In fact, Charlatta is quite an accomplished artisan in her own right. She began her art in 2016 and not only makes beaded crafts and dream catcher designing, she has a very unique, and as yet uncopied, method on making pottery. She inlays turquoise into her pottery. She also employs a technique called “horse-hair pottery” using horse hair and ostrich feathers to adorn the pottery. This technique involves burning the hairs or feathers onto the pottery’s surface to create lines. As the hair or feathers touch the glowing hot pottery straight from the kiln, they sear onto the pot’s surface and leave carbon markings in the outline of the hair or feather. This leaves very distinctive patterns of resin on the surface to mix with the images that have been painted on.

Along with the pottery, Greenstone Collections features a wide array of handcrafted authentic Navajo jewelry and a smattering of Zuni jewelry made by some special friends of the family. The rest of the jewelry is expertly crafted by family members from both sides of the Greenstone’s family. Each piece of jewelry is signed or stamped with their name or initials to verify the authenticity of their work. The pottery is likewise stamped on the bottom of each piece and all of their work comes with a certificate of authenticity.

I encourage you to stop by their booth and look at the fantastic selection of crafts they have. They can also do custom work and are able to ship domestically. You can order on line at any of their websites: https://www.facebook.com/greenstonecollectionpotteryandcrafts/, https://greenstonecollection.square.site/, or https://eagleskyarts.square.site/

As always, many of the market vendors accept WIC Farmers Markets & Senior Farmers Markets Vouchers in exchange for fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP vouchers can also be used at some of the vendors booths. You can use your EBT card at the info booth for SNAP vouchers and Double UP tokens (unlimited amount right now).

We are looking forward to seeing you all at this coming week’s Market. For more information on all our vendors and the products they will be bringing, please see this week’s Farmers’ Market newsletter at www.sierravistafarmersmarkets.com. Also, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sierravistafarmersmarket/.

Submitted by “Uncle” Ralph Wildermuth