Lee Rain Cloud Moquino - Zia/Santa Clara/Apache/Yaqui
Winter Moiety-Santa Clara
Lee Rain Cloud Moquino is a seventh generation potter. Lee learned the art of pottery making from his Grandfather Corn Moquino and Master potter Felipe Ortega. Lee says “I believe Clay Mother selected me before I was born to be her instrument in manifesting her beauty”.
Unlike the Moquino family who makes black and red pottery, mostly as a means of decorative use; Lee chooses to create Mica (micaceous) bowls for ceremonial and everyday use. Lee say’s “I believe my pots are my children, they have spirits and serve a purpose”. Lee feels more connected to the mica because he believes it is a reflection of the sun, the stars, the gleaming waters, and all elements that encompass the reflection and sheen of the mica.
Lee’s pottery is utilitarian, and can be seen holding bone stew, the three sisters; beans corn and squash. On feast day’s you see Lee’s pottery on our kitchen table. It is a great conversational piece and sells pitch. I cook all year around in his pottery, especially for ceremonies within the tribe.
Lee has been making pottery since he was a child. Many traditional leaders from various Pueblo’s call Lee to make their pots for ceremonies. Lee feels he was gifted with this talent to help others. Unlike his grandfather Corn, Lee is very secretive in allowing others to witness the process from forming to the fire process of completion. He say’s “It’s a personal and spiritual experience to form and bring to life your children”. The process- Lee gathers his clay in northern New Mexico. He then brings it home to create his pots. He uses the coil and scrape method. Beginning each pot in a Puuki, Tewa for bottom or base. He builds his walls as tall as the circumference of the Puuki. The bigger the Puuki, the bigger the pot. Often times when sitting with Lee as he makes pottery many sexual jokes and innuendos are made and it is thought that laughter brings good energy and joy to those who use them. Lee say’s “the longer you play with it, the harder it gets, the clay of course.” Humor while making pottery lessens the stress and brings life.
Lee believes that one must be centered and in balance with all of nature and the elements, because all elements are used when making pottery. The element of earth is clay. The element of water is life. The element of air is the breath/soul. The element of fire is purity.
The mica acts as the temper which holds the clay together. Nothing is added to the clay. The clay is seventy five percent clay, and twenty five percent mica. The slip used to give the pot its sheen is twenty five percent clay and seventy five percent mica. This combination is one example of balance. Like his grandfather Corn, Lee in a collaboration effort with Steven Black enjoy painting Katchinas and other spirit figures which hold sacred meaning on his pottery. There are only three potters at Santa Clara who work primarily in mica. Lee being the youngest holds strong to this tradition. Lee says “being a potter helps one to be connected to the earth which is vital in our belief in being one with the earth”. Lee also say’s “I choose to make mica pottery because it is a connection to my Pueblo, Hispanic, and Apache ancestry, which makes me who I am”. One of the reasons Lee makes mica pottery is because he has always admired the simple beauty that a mica pot possesses.
Lee’s pottery can be found in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in Santa Monica, California. Lee has been in several news paper articles, online publications, Native People Magazine, and the book Where There is No Name for Art: The Art of Tewa Pueblo Children, The Serpents Tongue, and is quoted in various publications.
Lee is a religious leader who continuously brings awareness of the sacred. At the age of twenty four Lee has met with several world leaders, including royalty, presidents, and Traditional leaders, Holy People, Popes, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. Lee has traveled the world over and has gifted many of them with his pottery. Most recently Lee was commissioned by the All Indian Pueblo Council to create a gift of thanksgiving for the years of service to Chairman Joe Garcia president of the National Congress of American Indians. He considers this one of his greatest honors.
By Lenora B. Arrietta, Lee’s Mom