Remarkable talent has coursed from great-great grandmother, the legendary Maria Martinez, straight through great-grandparents, Adam & Santana Martinez, and his noted mother, Barbara Gonzales, to continue in this latest generation of recognized pottery artists.
Cavan is a major award-winning potter, who is a leader in reviving the old, polychrome style of San Ildefonso pottery.
One of his early awards was being named a Presidential Scholar, at a ceremony at the White House.
He, like the celebrated Charles Loloma, attended the prestigious Alfred University Ceramics Program, in New York State.
He learned the science of pottery and ceramics, and world art history, too, to complement his family lore.
As seen here, the polychrome style of decoration, which preceded his great-great grandparents’ rediscovery of black pottery, results in a bold and distinctive palette of natural colors.
The colors are naturally occurring local clay slips – powdered clay mixed with water to form a thick paint.
However, the black derives from steeping wild spinach leaves, like tea, until the desired depth of color is reached.
All the materials are gathered by hand; the base clay is also mixed, coiled, smoothed, and painted, by hand.
As is traditional, his work is carefully fired in the ground, continuing the centuries-old method.
This striking plate has a powerful design, in the traditional palette of red and sepia clay slips on the red base, and black vegetal paint.
The pattern builds on repeating the piece’s circular form, with three, contrasting borders, large, sepia circle, and the sun design at the very center.
The circular theme is interrupted by bold verticals, horizontals and spiked shapes, creating an exciting energy.
At two sides of the sun, there are quadrants of wavy bands, denoting running water.
In the very center of the sun, there are two smaller quadrants filled with black dots, traditional symbols for raindrops.
Elongated spikes represent the sun’s rays, while the elegantly formed cross that divides the sun circle, points to the four corners of the world.
The meaning is that the blessings of sun and water, in balance, should extend all over the world.
Therefore, crops will thrive, and so will humans.
This is a dramatic, wonderfully composed design, painted flawlessly, on an equally superb pottery base.
Innate talent and family history, joined with technical knowledge, come together in this major artist’s work, to splendid effect.