Bear Plate

Mary Janice Ortiz


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Mary Janice sometimes strays from the pottery figures traditional to Cochiti Pueblo, and her famous family.

She creates equally wonderful pieces like this imposing plate.

Plates are notoriously difficult to achieve by the coil-and-smooth method of Native pottery, since the weight of the clay tends to fold onto itself.

Flawlessly shaped, this dish is decorated with a dramatic head of a bear, flanked by bear paws.

The portrait conveys the fierce strength of its subject.

Bears are not only formidable hunters, they are symbols of protection and power. The design pays homage to that.

The burnished, golden tan clay slip is decorated with paint made from brewed wild spinach plants.

On the reverse side, the matte, red clay base is revealed.

Notice the small gap on the rim, directly below the bear’s head: this “spirit line” is meant to release the artist’s creativity from the finished piece, so it can be used again.

Bold and dramatic, just like its subject this bowl is also imposing, and makes a powerful impression.

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