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Black Jar with Shell Heishi


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An award-winning potter, Erik is a descendant of the legendary Maria Martinez, who was responsible for the revival of black pottery, over 100 years ago.

His grandmother, Carmelita Dunlap was a niece of Maria’s and was raised by her. Erik’s mother, Martha Appleleaf, is also a noted potter.

This perfectly proportioned, exquisitely formed jar is an excellent example of his potting skill and artistic flair.

It is stone-polished, by hand, transformed from flower-pot matte texture to a remarkable sheen.

Around the middle of this ovoid form,  a series of traditional motifs have been reverse painted.

That is, after the pot was formed, fired in the ground, and smothered with dried horse or sheep manure (which created the indelible black color), it was laboriously polished with a hand-held stone.

The polished designs were the background; the matte areas around them were painted on with a clay slip.

A creative element is the inlaid row of baby olive shell heishi – tiny hand-cut beads – that winds gracefully around the shoulder. Another strand of the same tiny heishi flows around, toward the base.

The warm brown of the shell is a subtle and sophisticated combination, with the black surface of the piece.

The sinuous form of the inlaid heishi, together with the rain signs on one side, and the stylized feathers on the other, signify hopes for rain and rivers, or streams.

Feathers are metaphors for prayers since birds fly so high, they seem to reach the heavens.

Rain and flowing water are precious in the high desert, where the Pueblos are located.

Stunning in form, finish, and design, this small jar radiates elegance and serenity.

The celebrated legacy of Maria lives on.

Additional information


Baby Olive Shell, Hand Processed Local Clay


3 1/4" H x 2 1/2" Diameter