Native American Artists: Potters « back to artist list
Robert (Bob) Lansing, Navajo Pottery Artist
Robert was born in Cortez, Colorado, August 15, 1966, to the Tower House Clan, his mother's clan, and for the Red House Clan, his father's. Robert's mother, Helen Benally Lansing, was a weaver of fine Navajo rugs. Before her death in 1990, she had 11 children. Robert's father, Dan Lansing, was a noted Navajo Medicine Man. He was a "healer of minds," as Robert describes his calling. Mr. Lansing began learning his profession at age 14 and continued his healing until his death in 1989. He did sandpainting but only for religious purposes. He also carved dolls to help in the healing. These were never sold. Robert explains that his father worked a lot with children's "mind" problems.
Bob's father and grandfather influenced him greatly. He is deeply aware of his Navajo heritage and the beliefs of his people. An example of this is when I asked him for pieces with bears carved in them. He explained that because the bear is sacred to his people, he really doesn't want to until he goes through a "ceremony" with a medicine man that will purify him and permit him to do so. "Little Brother," the Bear, protected the Navajo during their journeys through the other Navajo worlds. He is greatly revered.
Bob was taught carving by his uncle, William Yazzie. Through this well known Navajo potter, his blending of geometric patterns and his use of feathers (very important to the Navajo) and wildlife or birds became his hallmark as well. He learned the art of wheel-throwing from another Navajo potter, Lawrence Crank. Bob in turn taught Lawrence the art of carving.
Bob uses two media: His red bowls are New Mexico red clay, which he gathers, and his white bowls are "white Haggie" porcelain, which he obtains in Salt Lake City. He creates the bowl in either medium on the wheel. He permits it to dry slowly, trims and shapes the base, and then paints the bowl with the colors he desires using a ceramic paint. Each layer of paint is permitted to dry before the next one is applied.
His deeper carving is now worked. He carves through the applied colors to the base clay color or to any point he wishes. He can then apply another ceramic color if desired. He uses a metal scriber and an Exacto knife for his fine detail.
The bowl is kiln-fired for 6 hours and permitted to gradually cool for 12 hours. Bob can then apply the final, very-fine detailed "sgraffito" or "incising" and any other work he cares to impart.
Bob is slowly being recognized for the talent he is. Once he gave a fine vase to a friend in 1984. This man, from Montana, entered it for Bob in the National Arts and Crafts Contest in Washington D.C. This piece won a trophy, ribbon, a $300 check, and a letter from President Regan. He also received airline tickets to attend the award ceremony, but due to his mother's illness, he was unable to attend.
His style of work is non-traditional; because of this, he has not entered in Southwest competition. This will change this year. He will begin competing in the Southwest's major competitions. His most recent honor was to be selected by Arizona Highways as one of 33 outstanding, young (under 30) artists from Arizona's Indian Reservations. His work, and the others, will appear in the November, 1992 issue of the magazine.