During the 1880s, the potters of the Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico began producing small pottery figurines. These were marketed as traditional and sacred ceremonial “Rain Gods.” In reality, they were neither traditional nor ceremonial and were produced strictly for the tourist trade.
By the early 1900s, the little statues were being churned out by the thousands. They were so numerous that they were packed into barrels and sent to curio and tourist shops around the Southwest. The mass-production and low quality of the figures caused frustration among scholars and serious art collectors. They believed that the rain gods were no more than ugly tourist trinkets, not worthy of serious study or addition to museum collections.
The practice of making the rain gods continues to this day as the artisans at the Tesuque Pueblo take pride in their work. But now instead of being thought of as tchotchkes, the figurines are viewed as a means of the artist’s self-expression and have become sought after pieces among collectors.
The McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation has an assortment of over 30,000 artifacts in collections. So we can share some of these we will be posting some of the more eclectic examples for your enjoyment. We hope to see you in the future. Until then, stay safe and well.