John Whiterock, Diné (Navajo) Potter and Sculptor

John Whiterock, Navajo, honors his Mother with his art. Born in 1970, John was raised watching his Mother, Cecelia Whiterock, coil and paint her pots in the traditional Navajo manner. He and his brother, Junior, paid attention and now continue with their family’s award winning tradition.

“My Mother, Cecelia, is still the center of our family, and it is to her remarkable strength and selfless devotion that I dedicate my work. My figurines represent her, as well as other female relatives performing daily rituals in Navajo life.”

Using the clay from the mesa behind his home in Tuba City, Arizona that he shares with his wife and young family, John coils and rolls his clay into beautiful shawled dolls. These sculptures are a reflection of his Mother going out under the stars at night to say her prayers. Within each unique doll’s attire can be found the sacred symbols of the Navajo. Dolls like John’s have yet to be seen in the ceramic market. Using a contemporary form based in traditional techniques, each doll takes several weeks to produce.

“Following the carving process, the figure is left to dry on it’s own for one and a half to two weeks, then kiln fired and smoked with pine pitch, a process unique to my work,” John says.  

Each doll is then painted with symbols sacred to John and his culture. Many of these delightful figures have children peeking out from under shawls, dragonflies, kivas, traditional rug designs and a variety of surprising symbolic details.  

His unique process was “discovered” by accident one day as he left his work to take a phone call. As the young artist returned to what he thought would be a ruined batch, he instead visualized and created a unique style in the vast pottery and figurines market.

John received the Award in Excellence in Sculpture at the 2004 Southwest Indian Art Fair Juried Art Competition, continuing today to forge a contemporary trail in the ancient medium. He and his wife Shanna consistently sell out his creations to avid collectors at the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Indian Fair and Market at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the National Museum of the American Indian Art Market in Washington D.C.