22 Ancient Southwest Inspired Coil Pot Ideas

As an artist, there is nothing worse than hitting that wall and experiencing a creative block.  It can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging, especially if you have been on a roll with your pottery recently.

Coil pots can be a great way to overcome these blocks as they can be relatively simple to make, however, if you are looking for something more challenging with them it can be difficult to find interesting inspiration online.

25 Ancient Southwest Inspired Coil Pot Ideas

Although there are many photos and blogs about coil pot ideas, a lot of them seem to look quite similar. 

 So, instead of trawling through pages of new pottery ideas, we are going to look to the past to spark some inspiration. In this article, we will be looking at 25 ancient southwest-inspired coil pot ideas to help get your creative juices flowing again.

Even if you end up simply recreating a design, you never know when it could spark something magical.

Where Does Coil Pottery Come From?

One of the best ways to get the most inspiration out of a style of pottery is to understand where it came from.  After all, there is a story behind every piece of pottery and every style of pottery.

Southwest coil pots date back to around 150 AD and have been traced back to Arizona. Coil pottery appeared to have stayed in the southwest for a long time after taking a while to take off among the people there.

Over time, the crude, undecorated brown pottery developed into usable pottery that featured regional designs that reflected what life was like at the time.

The root of ancient Southwest pottery design can be a great inspiration for your own pottery designs in themselves. 

Gila Shoulder Jar

The “Gila Shoulder” jar was made by the Hohokam culture that would have resided near modern-day Phoenix. The shape and design of this coil pot are definitely unique and very distinctive.

Despite the unusual shape of this piece of pottery, it is relatively simple to make as long as you have a good puki to help get you started. Once you have formed a strong base in the puki, simply begin to add coils above the edge.

To create the distinctive shape of the Gila Shoulder jar, make sure that you bring the walls of the pot inwards instead of up and out like you would when making a rounded form. The shape of this pot is enough to get your creative juices flowing again.

Kiva Jar

A kiva jar is one of the more advanced pieces of pottery on this list and is the only piece that features a lid. Kiva jars have most commonly been found where the Mesa Verde National Park is currently located.

The lid is often secured in place using ties through small holes in the lip of the jar.  

Corrugated Jar

Although this pot might look simple enough, it is actually one of the most difficult pieces of pottery to make on this list. There is evidence that suggests that this type of pot was used in cooking in the ancient Southwest.

Because of their purpose, they are extremely robust as they have to deal with the high temperatures involved in cooking.

In order to make a corrugated jar that is capable of being used for cooking over a fire, it is important to make sure that your coils are incredibly small and your pinches are kept close together. It is also important that you don’t smooth the outside of the coils away.

For many potters, mastering corrugated jars takes a lot of practice so don’t be disheartened if you don’t succeed right away.  

Casas Grandes Marriage Vessel

There is no solid understanding of what this piece of pottery was actually used for, but it is a fair assumption that it was used for some kind of ceremony, most probably a wedding ceremony of sorts due to the duality of the vessel.

This type of pot has been most commonly found around the modern day Chihuahua, New Mexico, and Texas. This can be a great coil pot to try to inspire your creativity due to its out of the box design. 

Ring Pot

This piece of pottery is a great project if you are an advanced potter who is looking for a creative and technical challenge. Ring pots have been found dating back to multiple time periods and all over the country.

Because these types of pot are so unusually shaped, it is difficult to know what they were used for or whether the shape of the pot was primarily for practical reasons.  

Polished Red Ware Jar

Although there are lots of pieces of pottery on this list that are decorated with elaborate paintings, this polished red ware jar is the opposite of that. There is a simple beauty to these plain pots and a lot of that comes from their form.

If you want to make one of these, brown clay that is slipped with red clay is the best choice.  The finished pot should then be polished with a smooth stone.  

Gila Polychrome Vase

This Gila polychrome vase is one of the most impressive pieces of pottery on this list because of its rare shape. It looks very similar to modern-day vases that we would put cut flowers in, although it is unlikely that this was the original use of this pot.

Despite the impressiveness of this pot it is incredibly easy to make with the coil method. This is a great option if you are a beginner potter or just want an easy project to reignite your love of the art. 

Cliff Polychrome Bowl

This coil pottery bowl is one of the most beautiful and challenging pieces on this list.  Although it may look like a simple bowl, the specific subtleties of the shape are difficult to master properly.  The painting of this bowl is also a challenge in itself. 

Chaco Cylinder

Chaco cylinder pottery is unique to a specific region in modern-day Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico.

Different from the bowl and jar shapes of many of the other items on this list, the chaco cylinder was thought to be used for drinking cacao.

Cibola Pitcher

Although pitchers are items of pottery that are commonly found all over the country, none are quite like the pitcher from the cibola region.

These particular pitchers are often decorated with black mineral paint over white clay. In addition to these intricate designs, the handles of these pitchers are often made to look like small animals.

Culinary Shoe Pot

shoe pot

The title of this pot is a little confusing but it is a pot that is used for cooking.  Although archaeologists know that this type of pot was used for cooking, it is unclear exactly how it was used in cooking.

This is a challenging coil pot to make, but can be fun if you are up for it.

Tonto Polychrome Jar

This jar is one of the most colorful entries on this list and makes a nice change from the popular black and white look of other pieces.

These tonto polychrome jars would have been painted with organic paint, to make your own version as authentic as possible you will need to ensure that you have the right slip to create the color. 

Micaceous Bean Pot

This coil pot is one of the most beautiful on this list. Although the design is not particularly complex, the curved lip and wide opening give this pot an elegant feel.

It is the silicate minerals called mica that provide this pot with an incredible resistance to heat which makes it perfect for cooking with.  This special clay is available to purchase online. 

Seed Jar

This piece of pottery is a simple elegant design that originates from ancient Anasazi times. This is a great jar to make if you are a beginner or are looking for something where you can focus on the decoration more than the forming.

The seed jar features a very simple coil pot design which only requires slightly more technical ability at the lip to ensure the pinching links are suitable. 

Hohokam Scoop

This hohokam scoop is a great project to work on if you are tired of making more basic coil pots in your pottery. The Hohokam people created these scoop shaped pieces of pottery instead of the ladles that their neighbors would have been making.

One of the great things about making these scoops is that there is a large surface area for painting. 

Mesa Verde Mug

Despite being ancient pottery from the southwest, this mesa verde mug is extremely similar in shape to modern day coffee and tea mugs. Despite the modern popularity of this mug shape, the design didn’t seem to spread beyond the mesa verde region.

To add an extra challenge to this mug, you can make your mesa verde mug more authentic, you can add a separate chamber at the bottom that rattles.

Ancestral Puebloan Ladle

This piece of pottery is one of the most challenging pieces on this list, particularly when using the coil method. While the bowl of the ladle will be easy enough to create, the most important part of this item is the handle which is a lot harder to make with coils.

How you go about this can vary. Some handles have been known to be solid, while others are hollow, some are even designed to rattle like the mug above. Even once you manage to make the handle, you then have to attach it to the bowl.

There are modern tools that you can use to make this piece a little easier, or you can stay authentic and use just what the ancient potters would have had available. 


This ancestral puebloan canteen is another more complex item of pottery to make and can be the perfect challenge to get over your creative block. These canteens would have been used to transport water for miles during long desert journeys. 

Although this pottery was initially designed to be purely functional, it can also be used as a striking decoration in your house. These canteens can either be made with or without handles, depending on which you prefer. 

Wedding Vase

This pueblo wedding vase is quite similar to the marriage vessel mentioned above, and although it has historical origins, it doesn’t appear to have become a popular item until the 20th century when the tourist trade picked up.

Regardless of its recent popularity, it is still a fun and unique piece of pottery that can make a change from the pots you usually make. The twin jar necks will create a fun challenge that can help you get out of your comfort zone.

Four-Mile Polychrome Bowl

One of the things that makes this type of bowl so beautiful is the pigmentation that is achieved through the specific slip. The bowl itself is pretty simple to make and is quite shallow, therefore the forming process will be quite simple.

This piece is all about the decoration and artwork that you apply to the formed bowl. The most common colors on these bowls are red, black, and white.

You can source the authentic materials needed to create the paints that the ancient potters would have used, or you can use modern paints if you prefer.  

Water Jar

If you are tired of creating smaller coil pottery projects and are looking for something to stretch your creative legs with, this could be the perfect item for you.

The Anasazi water jar is a particularly large coil pottery piece featuring beautiful and sometimes complex designs on the outside. While the body of the water jar is often quite large, the opening at the top is small.

This would have been to keep the water properly contained within the jar and reduce the amount of water that evaporates in the heat. These jars would have been essential to sustaining life for the Anasazi people.

Mimbres Bowl

The final entry on this list is one of the most iconic pieces of pottery that came from the ancient southwest. The black and white designs that were applied to the surface of the bowls would have depicted life, animals, and mythology that pertained to the Mogollon culture.

Again, this is another project where the difficulty comes in the painting more than the forming of the bowl. To keep your Mimbres bowl authentic, you should do some basic research into the common designs that have been identified on uncovered pottery.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for a change from the pottery that you usually make or are completely stuck for inspiration, these 25 coil pot ideas can hopefully help you to get your creativity flowing again. You might even be able to leave your pottery comfort zone with a completely new project.