Hundreds of years ago, when the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) were the primary occupants of the Southwest, the climate was pretty much as it is today. Cool nights and warm days during the late spring through early fall made travel for hunting or moving between the fields and their homes a challenge.

The Puebloans were known for growing crops like beans and corn, and long days in the fields required water. Few streams or rivers are close enough to quench a worker’s thirst.

These people were expert potters and made clay canteens to carry water. Amazingly, even though these pieces of pottery had limited lifespans, the artists spent much time decorating them with intricate designs.


As the Southwest was settled, metal canteens became popular trade items. They were durable, lasting for decades, and did not require the careful handling of the clay water carriers.

Today, many Pueblo artists create canteens as art pieces. Most Pueblos have at least a few artists known for this work.

Artists such as Barbara Gonzales, great-granddaughter of Maria Martinez’, create beautiful canteens with contemporary designs.


From the famous Acoma family, Dolores Lewis makes simple canteens with traditional Acoma designs.

Some potters, like Hopi artist Karen Kahe Charlie, create large canteens with intricate designs that are a lot larger than any canteen made for use.

Navajo potters also made canteens, and people Like Nathan Begay, who is half Navajo and half Hopi, create vessels that combine a traditional Navajo shape and style with Hopi motifs.

Robert Tenorio from the Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo is known for his contemporary adaptation of traditional designs. We have two lovely canteens of his that are entirely different from each other.


Vessels for holding or carrying water were essential to life in the Desert Southwest. Without them, survival was impossible away from an existing water source. Contemporary artists have appropriately memorialized this style of pottery as an art form.

Pottery Canteens in the Gallery