Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day: First Hopi Glassblower Ramson Lomatewama Comes to Andover

Balancing artistic innovation with traditional Hopi taboos that restricted men from working in pottery, Ramson Lomatewama of the Hopi tribe found his “calling in life” in glassblowing. Lomatewama reflected on the pivotal experience that inspired his lifelong passion for glass—a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

“One [glassblower] would gather the glass from the furnace on the pipe and then take it to the gaffer who would then blow into it and start shaping it and it was just a mesmerizing experience…I went home, I read books on glassblowing, everything I could get my hands on. The history, the technology behind it, just everything. I just started eating it all up, reading, reading, reading, and finally I had chances on my other travels to go to glassblowing studios and watch people working,” said Lomatewama.

On Monday night, Lomatewama gave a presentation on his artistic journey in the Robert S. Peabody Institute for Archaeology. Audience member Eleanor Tong ’24 expressed admiration for Lomatewama’s “pure love” of art—specifically how he balanced his artistic pursuits with caring for his family, studying sociology, and his passion for education.

“I was really fascinated about his journey towards art and how he sort of had so many things going on at once, like I know sociology, practicing and going to school for sociology, raising his family and finding his passion in art, I loved how he was like I finally found my calling even though I already have so many other things going on…he wasn’t super put off or bothered when somebody told him he wasn’t good at it, I really appreciated kind of his pure love for art,” said Tong.

While his family supported his glassblowing endeavors, Lomatewama initially faced prejudice and skepticism from the general public. In his presentation, Lomatewama emphasized that every day should be Indigenous People’s Day, not just 1 day out of 365, and that the fight for Native American justice and cultural reclamation is a continuous and yearlong endeavor.

“People did not see Native American artists as glassblowers. It just falls out of the realm of some people’s reality. When I first started going to art markets I’d be sitting in my booth with all of my artwork in front of me and some people would question if this was Indian art. Well, it is now. It’s always been with us,” said Lomatewama.

According to Lomatewama, the Hopi culture doesn’t have a written language, so they pass down stories and knowledge through art. As such, all forms of art—from glassblowing to basketry—is especially symbolic to them, embodying various facets of Hopi history, values, and belief systems. Lomatewama discussed how his art symbolizes children.

“This is the general Hopi idea, whatever we create in terms of our art, that’s our children, so I am creating children through this art form. As a parent I recognize I can’t hang on to my kids forever…so my artwork, they are like my children, I can’t hang on to them. As a parent, I’d be doing my children a disservice if I tried to hang on to them so I have to be willing to let them go out into the world so that they can help to heal other people,” said Lomatewama.

Another integral quality Lomatewama focuses on in his art is color. For example, being an agricultural society in which corn is a staple crop, the color green represents life in Hopi culture. In addition, blue symbolizes moisture and is thought to come from the west. Reds and oranges from the south represent heat and warmth, and the eastern white symbolizes purity or snow. Lomatewama discussed the nuanced importance of magenta as well.

“We have this magenta color, and you only see that for a very, very brief time before sunrise along the horizon. For us that symbolizes a new beginning, a new birth, so the point of that being that you have another chance to become a better person than you were a day before…So when I do my artwork I’m not throwing colors randomly together. I give a lot of forethought to what [I am] trying to communicate here, and that’s what the colors mean to me,” said Lomatewama.

Looking forward, a few of Lomatewama’s current projects include glasswork inspired by the Mimbres people and a collection of glass cairns. He asserted that the overarching theme connecting his artwork across mediums is life, as he feels that’s what bonds people together. He believes that the purpose of art is to help both others and artists themselves heal. In his words of a mentor’s message that stuck with him, “if you want to live a beautiful life, surround yourself with beautiful things.”

“I’ve always been interested in things [art] even as a really young kid and in that sense we’re all artists. We’re all born with that gift, the way we grow. The only thing you need to do is you need to give yourself permission to bring that out. Because you already have it. We all already have it,” said Lomatewama.

Mesmerized when he first saw glass art in his late forties, Ramson Lomatewama
felt his calling to become a glassblower.