Robert Big Elk was born in Macy, Nebraska
and is of Omaha and Sioux descent. He attended the Institute of American
Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1963 to 1968. He studied under
the renowned Hopi potter, Otellie Loloma, who taught him Indian
traditional techniques and designs. He was a student at the University
of Colorado for one year. Several of his pots were selected for a
national touring exhibit of the Institute of American Indian Arts Honors
Collection. His works have been on display in 41 museums, colleges and
universities as well as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C..
Big Elk did workshops and demonstrations, in which he taught the
origins, ancient symbols and techniques of pottery making.
Some of his finished pots consist of only his preferred medium of
stoneware while others are painted and/or embellished with organic
materials such as leather, beads, bone hairpipe, and horsehair. Big Elk
combined new techniques with methods that are thousands of years old;
this has resulted in a world-class appeal of his art which transcends
even cultural barriers.
"I have always felt that I could make a most profound contribution
to high standards of the art of pottery by synthesizing the beauty of
design and cultural expressions of the many diverse and indigenous
peoples. To this end I have spent much of my professional career
visiting and researching the pottery and arts of tribes in the
Southwest, the Plains, the Northeast, the Northwest and in California.
Sitting beside the potters, carvers, painters and sculptors of these
diverse tribes, I have learned new techniques that are often ancient
techniques and have absorbed an appreciation of the cultural and
artistic expression of many indigenous peoples." - Robert Big Elk