Blackware Nativity

Paul and Dorothy Gutierrez



Paul was related to celebrated figural potters: grandson of the celebrated Lela and Van Gutierrez, and son of Margaret and Luther Gutierrez.

He carried on the figural tradition of his family, in his own way, together with his wife Dorothy. They were famous for their amusing blackware figures.

Sadly, Paul passed away recently. Dorothy now continues the work they did together for decades.

This captivating Nativity, however, is an older one; these appealing figures were made by them both.

The popular black style of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery was achieved by firing in the ground; the clay turned black in a chemical reaction to smothering the flames with dried sheep or horse manure.

Polishing the clay with a stone in the palm of the hand is difficult, especially around all the fluid curves in these pieces.

Characteristic of the Gutierrez’ work, these figures combine matte black and gleaming, stone-polished finishes – sometimes in the same figure – which is even more difficult.

The naive charm of the figures in this Nativity is delightful.

Simplified in form, they are nonetheless realistically wrapped in blankets, chanting praise and thanksgiving with fervor.

The animals too, are recognizable: a lamb, a sheep, a cow and a donkey. There is also a shepherd with wooden staff, among them.

In Pueblo lore, the donkey stands over the Child, to warm Him with its breath. The Child is snug inside a cradle board, also chanting away.

The three Wise Men bring corn, a wedding vase, and a seed pot, as gifts.

Not one, but two, angels complete the personnel. With so many figures it will be fun to arrange them as you wish.

Unusual in the black finish, this Nativity is adorably engaging.

With almost a folk art feel, yet skillfully formed and polished, this set will appeal to generations of children and adults.




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