Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mata Ortiz Wall Mount Fish Effigies

Pottery Fish Effigies by Jerardo & Normal Tena of Mata Ortiz

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rose Pacheco's Affordable Traditional Pueblo Pottery

Traditional Kewa Pottery by Rose Pacheco
Rose Pacheco of the Kewa Pueblo (formerly known as and still widely referred to as the Santo Domingo Pueblo) is a traditional potter; her wares are hand-coiled from locally gathered clays, decorated with popular centuries old animal and floral motifs with natural paints derived from area plants applied by yucca brush and then finally pit fired outdoors.   An egg white coating followed a vegetable oil imbues the work with the final soft sheen.    Hers is a centuries old labor intense method of crafting pottery which usually means high price tags, but Rose's excellent signed artistic pottery is surprisingly affordable.   The small 3 1/2 bowls pictured above currently retail for about $24 each, the 5 inch bowls for $40.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Steve Ellmore Indian Art

Last Saturday, Sandy and I traveled, as we frequently do, into Santa Fe for a meal and an update overview of the retail Native American art market.    The highlight of our day was a visit to Steve Elmore's gallery located a short walk from the plaza.   His shop is replete with vintage Native American art treasures.   I thought the most interesting display was a Hopi canteen collection.  Our visit gave us valuable insight into pottery pricing with respect to the date of creation and condition, but more importantly a museum quality look at numerous authentic distant pieces that still serve as pattern heritage basics for many of today's contemporary Pueblo potters. Our pleasurable visit was augmented by amiable conversation with Steve Elmore. 
I highly recommend the shop for Santa Fe visitors, but for those who do not have the opportunity to visit first hand, an online excursion through the shop website is enlightening and definitely worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earring Symmetry

Earrings Set in Sterling by an Unknown Navajo Inlay Specialist, circa 2012
A well known classical style Navajo silversmith once explained to me the challenge of symmetry in producing a pair of well crafted earrings. The biggest demanding chore is in finding or cutting stones enough alike to make a close match.   He summed up the frustration in saying, "earrings are more than twice the work of a pendant and they have no additional market value "   Our discussion pertained to an example of earrings with single cabochons mounted in silver. The difficulty of achieving an acceptable level of symmetry is obviously compounded with multiple stone inlay.

The earring pair pictured above illustrates remarkable construction symmetry of its component stones:  jasper, tiger eye, Acoma jet, and lab opal.    Each piece is individually cut from a much larger stone then shaped to fit by the inlay artist.  It is an exacting skill that requires great patience and a very high level of manual dexterity developed through years of practice. 

The unidentified Navajo inlay artist who designed, cut, and set the stone in silver to make this beautiful and unique set of matching earrings is worthy of high praise and appreciation.   The retail value of this particular pair is about $200.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who Gets Credit for This Reversible Bear Pendant?

Bear Pendant by Silversmith Calvin Begay and an Unnamed Navajo Inlay Artist, circa 2012
ANSWER:  Calvin Begay whose work is very well known. "Calvin Begay" is a widely distributed brand name like "Tommy Singer."  In fact, Calvin Begay's name is the second most widely recognized name in the Native American Indian Jewelry business today.  What is not commonly known to consumers and even many retail sellers is that virtually all pieces credited to him that have stone inlay work (like the bear above that has "Calvin Begay" stamped inside the bale) are not inlaid by Calvin.  He is a highly accomplished Navajo silversmith who rightfully should be credited for the metallic art aspects of his brand of jewelry.   However, the major captivating appeal goes to a Navajo stone inlay artist who almost always goes unnamed.  I frequently advocate for greater recognition of inlay artisans, but in reality adding a second name is usually problematic and especially so on small works or double sided pieces.  Besides space limitations, placing a good hallmark on metal is a technical art and it is not uncommon even on high end jewelry pieces to find compromised hallmark stamp imprints.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yesterday's Arrival

Mata Ortiz Roadrunner Effigy with Dragonfly by Gerardo & Norma Tena, circa 2012 
This marvel of clay art from Mata Ortiz by Gerardo and Norma Tena arrived yesterday.   It measures a mere 4 7/8 inches in height and 4 1/2 inches in length. The roadrunner, meticulously decorated with natural pigments, has a dragonfly in beak.   I eagerly look forward to buying more creations by this great pottery duo whose works are frequent award winners and can be found in museums and traveling exhibitions in Mexico and the USA.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unpacking Mata Ortiz

Mata Ortiz Geometric Design Pot by Dora Quezada, circa late 20th century
It seems much longer, but it has actually been only 5 weeks since I made the decision to expand my advocacy of Native American pottery beyond the Southwest border of the USA to include the renowned ceramic arts of Mata Ortiz, Mexico. My visit to the Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in April of this year turned the rusty key that reignited my personal passion for Mata Ortiz pottery, an interest which had been in hibernation for nearly twenty years. In the decade of the 1990's I took trips to Mata Ortiz to accumulate a collection of pottery works directly from the artists.  I've kept the large ollas and one effigy pot on exhibition shelves through four consecutive homes, but most of the pots remained safely boxed until 2 days ago when Sandy unpacked them to join our array of cultural artifacts on display.  The only signed Quezada piece I found was the small geometric-lizard motif olla pictured above by potter Dora Quezada, niece of Juan Quezada, the village local hero and man of legendary fame whose praises are now sung in ballads of tribute.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mata Ortiz Blackware Owl Pot

Twelve Inch Mata Ortiz Black Polished Effigy Owl Pot by Olivia Renteria Dominguez
Here is yet another supremely crafted hand-coiled pot by Mata Ortiz potter Olivia Dominguez.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Parrot Pot by Vidal Corona

Mata Ortiz Parrot Effigy Pot by Vidal Corona

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Most Excellent Owl Effigy Pot by Oliva Renteria Dominguez

Mata Ortiz Owl Effigy Pot
Here is another marvelous clay creation by my favorite pottery artisan, Olivia Renteria Dominguez of Mata Ortiz.  Note the lip of the pot is clearly visible when viewed from the back.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Santo Domingo Pueblo Bowl by Ione Coriz

Traditional Design Santo Domingo Pottery Bowl
by Ione Coriz, circa 2011

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mata Ortiz Black on Black Stone Polished Lizard Effigy Pot by Olivia Dominguez

Mata Ortiz Black Stone Polished Lizard Effigy Pot by Olivia Dominguez
This  black polished pot needs no comment, its superb beauty speaks enough.

A Cochiti Pueblo Storyteller With Micaceous Sparkle

A Cochiti Pueblo Storyteller With Micaceous Sparkle
Micaceous clay has been used by the indigenous people of North America for centuries to make durable cooking pots and for food, water, and seed storage containers. Pottery made of mica-rich clay has a readily recognizable characteristic sheen. Cochiti Pueblo potter Pam Tenorio used micaceous clay to produce the distinctive decorative glitter effect on the storyteller pictured above.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jemez Pueblo Turtle Storyteller Figurine by Mary Lucero

Jemez Pueblo Turtle Storyteller by Mary Lucero

The Pueblo storyteller era began in the 1960's at the Cochiti Pueblo, but these clay figurines have since become very popular creations just over the mountain in the red canyon country of the Jemez Pueblo.

Jorge Corona Guillen's Rattlesnake Pots

Rattlesnake Pots by Jorge Corona Guillen of Mata Ortiz

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jemez Polychrome Vase by Natalie Sandia

Jemez Feather, Flower, and Wave Motif Polychrome Vase by Natalie Sandia
The Jemez Pueblo abandoned traditional pottery production following the depredations of  Spanish conquest. In the era beyond 1700 the tribe produced some coarse utilitarian pottery, but mainly relied on imported pottery from the nearby Zia pueblo. Some of the best examples of old Zia vessels have been found at Jemez. The Southwest tourist heyday of the 20's and 30's influenced a resurgence of decorative Jemez pottery, but the work was stylistically inferior to that of nearby neighboring pueblos like Zia, Santo Domingo, and San Ildelfonso. Their definitive competitive resurgence started in the last quarter of the 20th century. Today, artisans like Natalie Sandia and her mother Geraldine produce great work that has helped distinguish the Jemez Native American community as one of the most prolific and innovative contemporary pueblo potter production centers.

Scenic View of Rio Grande Pueblo Land

Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande River Bosque at Sunset
This is the most majestic view I have found in the vicinity of Albuquerque.   The lush, fully developed green canopy of the cottonwood trees lining the Rio Grande River has returned anew. I snapped this sunset scenic last evening from an overlook located a short walk from my front door. The vast acreage covered in this panoramic encompasses or borders the homeland of both modern and ancient Native American Pueblo tribes.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Owl Story Teller Figurine by Mary R Herrera

Cochiti Pueblo Owl Storyteller Figurine by Mary R. Herrera
Mary R Herrera and her daughter Johnna are both well known for their traditional Cochiti Pueblo storyteller figurines.

Mata Ortiz Lizard Effigy Wedding Vase by Angela Corona

Mata Ortiz Lizard Effigy Wedding Vase by Angela Corona

The Butterfly Lady of Mata Ortiz - Celia Lopez

Butterfly Motif Wedding Vase by Celia Lopez 
The butterfly is a recurrent decorative element for many Mata Ortiz potters, but Celia's excellent intense and dense butterfly images created by both paint and etch technique have earned her the appellation "The Butterfly Lady of Mata Ortiz."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Acoma Wedding Vase by H Poncho

Acoma Wedding Vase by H Poncho
The pictured wedding vase was produced by pouring slip casting into a mold.  The decoration technique is the same, but it is of much less value than a similar piece created in traditional fashion. Differentiating may be difficult, but looking at price is a good start.   If the wedding vase was made by hand coiling from locally harvested clay and fired outdoors, it would sell for 4 to 10 fold more. This one has a retail value of only $39.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Precision Pottery Painting by L Vallo

Acoma Pueblo Horned Toad Motif Greenware Vase by L Vallo, circa 2012
The horned lizard triplets on this vase appear very nearly identical, subtle differences are found only on very close inspection.   I choose this piece to illustrate an example of the meticulous paint work that defines the art work by many Southwestern Native American artisans. This high level of precision painting is common on many Acoma Pueblo works.   One might expect that such attention would be reserved for decorating traditional hand coiled pots priced in the three to four digit range; however, this pot measuring approximately 5 x 5.5 inches is made from a mold and poured liquid casting material.  The retail value is a mere $50.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Damaged Pot

Mata Ortiz Pot by Miguel Ch
I pulled out this great little 5 inch Paquime-patterned pot to photograph today.  Its egg shaped roundness precluded stable vertical or horizontal positioning; so, I balanced the pot on one side with a small segment of loosely adhering white artist tape to achieve my desired picture of Miguel Ch's etched signature on the bottom surface.   In removing the artist's tape I immediately suffered a sharp pang of guilt laced with regret in seeing the damage I had wrought.  I love traditional pots, but they really must be respected and treated with great care as one would a cherished drawing or painting.   This little pot with a pre-damage retail value of $120.00 will now become part of my private collection, but with damaged surface point facing the wall out of sight.

Damaged Art Work on Mata Ortiz Pot

Acoma Pot by Carmel Lewis

Acoma Pot by Carmel Lewis, circa 2010

Carmel Lewis, youngest daughter of renowned Acoma Pueblo revivalist potter Lucy Lewis (1890-1992), specializes in replicating pre-historic Mimbres designs on her pottery crafted from local clay and plant pigments via ancient methods of hand coiling and outdoor firing.