Thomas Tenorio is a very well-known and sought-after, award-winning pottery artist.
He is adept at rigorously contemporary designs and equally compelling traditional ones, as seen in this stately, but charming, olla.
He is self-taught, learning by reading, consulting with established potters in his Pueblo, etc. Now, he teaches others.
This is a traditional Santo Domingo Pueblo piece, with a personal design.
Of course, it has been entirely hand made in the old way: gathering, mixing, coiling, forming, smoothing, pit firing, and painting the designs with natural clay slips and plant-derived black paint.
Water is one of the greatest blessings in the high desert of the Pueblos, and is an age-old motif.
This artist, has incorporated the traditional wave and spiral signs of water, albeit in very graceful and finely painted ways.
Then, all around the shoulder of this beautifully formed olla, he has “stocked” a lighthearted school of disarmingly appealing fish.
Plump and ornamental, they swim with wave forms above them, water spirals between them, and stylized golliwogs and water droplets all around.
The form and execution of the olla is meticulous, and traditional; the fish are depicted light-heartedly, but the whole design is quite serious.
Well-proportioned and dignified in form, this handsome olla is a wonderful blend of tradition, and a creative surprise.
The message is serious – the blessing of water – the design is both beautiful and cheerful; the result is memorable.