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Amanda Swimmer
Historic Artist

Amanda Swimmer

Potter Cherokee, NC (Qualla Boundary)

Amanda Swimmer

Amanda Swimmer, one of the best-known potters in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, built and fired pots by hand in the traditional manner. She smoothed them with river stones, and impressed designs on them with wooden paddles and sea shells. After drying the pieces in the sun, she would fire them in an open pit.

Born in 1921 and raised on the Qualla Boundary, Amanda Swimmer taught herself to form and fire pots after discovering a deposit of clay near her home in the Big Cove community. She sold her first pots to tourists that a park ranger brought to her home. At the age of thirty-six, she began working at the Oconaluftee Indian Village, where she learned traditional methods of pottery building from Mabel Bigmeat. Amanda Swimmer demonstrated pottery making at the village for more than thirty-five years, often building more than a thousand pots in a summer season.

Amanda Swimmer’s pottery is nationally recognized and earned her many awards. Her pots are on exhibit in North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico. She received the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1994 and received prizes at the Cherokee Fall Fair. For many years, she taught pottery making at Cherokee Elementary School, passing her tradition on not only to her family, but to younger generations. She demonstrated pottery making and taught classes in schools throughout western North Carolina, at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and at several colleges in Georgia. She was a founding member of the Cherokee Potters Guild.

In her later years, she continued to demonstrate her pottery making to audiences of all ages, traveling and demonstrating with her daughter Merina Myers, who is also a potter.

In February 2018, Amanda Swimmer was bestowed the title of Beloved Woman of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, one of the tribe’s highest honors.

Amanda Swimmer passed away on November 24, 2018 at the age of ninety-seven.

Note: "Historic Artist" designates one who is deceased but whose legacy continues to influence and inspire new generations.