His father, known as Red Starr, was born a Sioux, and married Harriet Tafoya, of Santa Clara Pueblo. Norman was born, therefore, into the Santa Clara Pueblo black pottery tradition.
He has developed into a highly reputed artist, noted especially for his intricate sgraffito work.
His gift of scratching out complex, clearly precise patterns, on the polished black clay background, is seen in this impressive wedding vase.
The piece is totally traditional, from gathering and mixing the clay, to coiling and smoothing the developing form, to firing in the ground, and polishing with a stone – all by hand.
There are designs incised on all sides, but the two largest circular designs emphasize the rotundity of the piece.
They each feature a ferocious bear, roaring, with fangs showing.
Not your usual lace-and-flowers motif for a wedding, but one with special cultural significance. In Native lore, the bear is considered a guardian and protector.
He uses his strength and power to watch over those who invoke him.
Therefore, two bears are appropriate to a wedding vase, which links two individuals into one couple.
The eagle feathers which encircle the center design, symbolize prayers; prayers for the health, happiness and safety of the couple.
At the sides, is a large bear claw design. This symbolizes the active protection of the bear.
A beautifully shaped handle and spouts, the glossy finish, and tiny turquoise accents add visual grace and beauty to the fierce, but benevolent symbols.
This wedding vase is full of blessings and prayers, for a happy, healthy life, presented in a splendidly elegant form.
We include a description of how wedding vases are used in Santa Clara weddings, with the purchase of this piece. It was written by another potter from this pueblo.
PS NEVER put water or any liquid in this wedding vase, please!
Also, when picking it up or carrying it, hold it from the bottom, NOT by the handle.