Bob Lansing is a Navajo potter who was blessed at age 17 with a life devoted to creating sacred vessels. Each piece of pottery made by Bob is first wheel thrown by the artist. After his thrown pots are bone dry, he coats them with layers of colored slip. He then scratches or etches designs through the individual layers with a simple carbide stylus or exacto knife. By etching with varying pressures, a particular scratch will expose the colors he wishes or in some cases, the base clay, which is typically white or red. He etches these designs using no pattern, no preliminary sketch to layout the design and no paper sketch to go by. He etches these designs straight from his mind to the vessel.
Native American artist Robert (Bob) Lansing specializes in pottery which features detailed etchings of animals combined with Native American designs. His pieces embody the heart and soul of his Navajo heritage and the beliefs of his people. Bob was born in Cortez, Colorado in 1966. He was born to the Towering House Clan (his mother’s clan) and the Red House Clan (his father’s clan). Robert is the youngest of 11 children in his family. Robert’s late mother, Helen Benally Lansing, was a weaver of fine Navajo rugs. His father, Dan Lansing, was a noted Navajo Medicine Man. Robert remembers his father as a "healer of minds". Robert’s work is deeply influenced by his father and grandfather as well as his brother-in-law, William Yazzie. Yazzie, a well known Navajo potter, taught Bob the skills of carving pottery. Through hard work and dedication, the blending of geometric patterns, the use of feathers (very important to the Navajo) portraying wildlife and birds became Bob’s own hallmarks. Lawrence Crank, a Navajo potter, taught Bob the art of wheel throwing. Bob returned this gift by teaching Lawrence the art of carving.
Because of careful planning and inspiration, no two pieces of Bob’s pottery are alike. Bob uses two mediums in creating his unique pottery pieces. His red bowls are made of New Mexico red clay while his white bowls are made of "White Haggie" porcelain from Salt Lake City. Bob begins by throwing the pieces by hand on the wheel. He lets them dry slowly, trims and shapes the base and then paints the piece with the colors he desires using ceramic paint. Each layer of paint is permitted to dry before the next one is applied. When the pieces are painted, Bob begins the carving process. He carves through the painted layers to the color he desires. He uses specialized tools to create the intricate detail that is the signature of his work. The pottery is then kiln fired for six hours and permitted to gradually cool for 12 hours. Bob then applies the final, very finely detailed "sgraffito," or "incising" and other finishing touches to his work. Bob’s family heritage and Navajo beliefs are a part of every piece he creates. Bob explains he likes to use "Little Brother", the bear, in his designs. Greatly revered in Navajo culture, Little Brother protected the Navajo during their journeys through the other Navajo worlds. Because the bear is sacred to his people, he goes through a ceremony with a medicine man that will purify him and permit him to use the bear in his carvings. Bob was awarded first place out of 168 artists by Ronald Reagan in the National Arts and Crafts Contest in 1986 when he was only 20 years old. His work was featured in the Arizona Highway magazine in 1992 and he is in a book entitled "Eduring Tradition: The Arts of the Navajo". Bob Lansing’s artwork has been displayed throughout the Southwest, in Washington D.C., California, and in foreign countries such as England and Germany. Bob is a devoted family-oriented man who does everything he can to provide for his family’s happiness. His wife, Loretta, shares the talent of making pottery and is a great help to the business. Bob Lansing’s authentic Southwestern pottery is a unique blend of traditional and contemporary art. His artwork reflects his life and lifestyle, a humble down-to-earth man, yet confident in his great talents. A smile is never far away from Bob as he observes the beauty of life, his family and the world around him. Those who have never seen Bob’s work are in for amazement. Those who know Bob and his talents hound him to see his latest pieces. Bob Lansing’s work is regularly displayed in art shows across the country, including the Pueblo Grande Museum Show in Phoenix, the Colorado Indian Market in Denver and the Texas Indian Market in Arlington. Bob maintains a booth at the Four Corners Monument and has a small gallery in Cortez, Colorado.