Born of a San Felipe Pueblo mother, and a Zuni father, award-winning potter, Joseph Latoma, is essentially self-taught.
He was curious to learn about San Felipe’s pottery tradition, which is sparser than some other Pueblos, so, he spent eight years experimenting, and questioning elders, before he started to create his own splendid pots.
His wife, Nona collaborates with him, in finishing their typically large, complex ollas, like this beauty.
With a commanding presence, this spectacular olla is decorated with traditional Pueblo motifs that are arranged to emphasize and harmonize with its dazzling form.
The magnificent piece is completely hand-fabricated.
The Latomas gathered the clay native to their area, mixed, coiled, formed, smoothed and burnished it with a hand-held stone.
Then, they painted the designs with natural red clay slips, and wild spinach-steeped black paint. It was pit-fired, as in the past.
Some of the designs are reverse-painted: Black paint on the red, polished base, rather than red on black, for instance.
Some motifs are a darker red than the orange-y brick hue of the base slip. This was achieved by not diluting the darker red clay slip, as was probably done on the lighter hue.
Patterns painted over the stone-polished surface are matte, in contrast to the gleaming burnished areas.
Symbols incorporated in the all-over pattern are traditional, good-luck rain and cloud signs.
Also, feathers, which mean prayers (for rain), floating up to the heavens, and sun, plants, and the famous Pueblo bird, seen around the shoulder.
The individual elements are simple, large and bold, in proportion to the majestic size of the pot.
Many of the designs are tapered, subtly echoing the superb form of the olla.
Joseph Latoma is quoted as saying,”“I make pottery to keep San Felipe traditions alive. It’s important to me that people know that San Felipe pottery exists.”
It seems evident that his amazing talent will see to that – beautifully.