This is a storyteller like no other, even for this unique potter. Her many prize ribbons demonstrate that judges, as well as collectors, agree that her storytellers, and other figures, are something truly special. The serenity, simplified forms and lifelike poses are her own, sculptural style. The size of this beautiful piece, and the number of children (11), make this particular piece exceptional.
As mother, grandmother and teacher, she knows kids, and shows them as they really sit, stand and move; the faces may be simplified, and the clay smoothed to a uniform texture, but each child’s attitude and gesture is true to life. Although Pueblo herself, her figures are usually Navajo, because she likes the graceful spread of skirts and the men’s cowboy hats – traditional Navajo wear.
Notice the “blankie” held by the little girl clinging to her mother’s shoulder: a beautifully draped and painted Navajo rug in clay. Other details abound: the cowboy hats, with a perky feather, on three of the older boys; the chaps on the one riding a hobby horse; the different hairstyles on the girls, from braids, to bun, to flowing locks; the little doll one girl holds, the lamb another one cuddles; the aforementioned blankie, and the lariat held by the boy “riding” his brother. One of the little girls attends to the baby, swaddled in a decorative blanket, in a cradle board held by the storytelling mother. Except for the string lariat held by one of the boys, everything is of handmade clay.
Notice how the skirts are formed, and the painted details of the clothing – shirts, sashes, Mother’s necklace and beautifully modeled hair, for instance. Then, there are the various poses of the children, so very naturalistic, even though the features and bodies are abstracted. They are as adorably busy and active as real children. Mother’s voluminous skirt is spread out, gracefully sculpted, as she sits solidly on her outstretched legs, a calm anchor to all the energy around her.
Despite the wonderfully lively actions of the children, and the number of them, the piece is suffused with serenity. The faces are charming, pretty, and individual, and Mother’s nose and mouth are delicately and beautifully formed.
This large and complex piece was formed according to tradition, from gathering the clay and making the red clay slip and black, plant-derived paint, to pit firing. It is one of the most beautiful and elegant storyteller figures you will find.