This pottery artist has an interesting history: his father, known as Red Starr, was born a Sioux, but married Harriet Tafoya, of Santa Clara Pueblo. Norman was born, therefore, into the Santa Clara Pueblo black pottery tradition, and has developed as 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 magnificent wedding vase, which has designs incised on all sides.
On one side, a circular design that emphasizes the rotundity of the piece, features two ferocious bears, roaring, with fangs showing. The bear is considered a protector, whose strength and power watches over weaker humans. Two bears are appropriate to a wedding vase, which links two individuals into one couple.
The circular band framing the bears contains an abstract eagle head on the top left, with stepped beak, sending forth lightning, and with a feather etched on his neck. The stepped motifs symbolize rain; eagle and feather symbolize the blessings of rain, which are answered by the eagle, flying high to the heavens, and calling down these blessings on the new couple. There is a band of delicate feathers on either side of this central design. Above, there is a powerful bear claw symbol on each neck of the wedding vase. Two tiny turquoise stones add color to each. Bears are powerful, and their protection is signaled by the bear claw design.
On the other side of the piece, a central Sunface gleams benignly, surrounded by the same eagle, storm and feathers motifs as are around the bears.The Sunface balances the rain, to infer a perfect equilibrium of nature, leading to many blessings. The rays of the sun are double: an inner, daintily etched band of feathery forms, on top of the gleaming, stone-polished black ones. As before, there are two bear paws on the necks of the spouts, accented with turquoise. The handle is also symbolic: two coils twined together to form one.
In between the two sides, additional, smaller Sunfaces are incised, with myriad feathers, below. This wedding vase is full of blessings and prayers, for a happy, healthy life.
Beautiful to look at, and decorated with heartfelt messages, this is a wonderfully handsome wedding vase, by a greatly respected, gifted artist. A marvelous gift, and for anniversaries, too.
We can 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. N.B. 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, which was merely added on and won’t hold.