Red and Black Sgrafitto Olla

Sammy Naranjo


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Sammy is one of the highly skilled, artist children of the late, celebrated  Flora Naranjo. He excels at the sgrafitto technique seen here, and is known for his two-toned pottery, again, as here.

The underlying clay is a warm beige, and the artist ( who often collaborates with his wife) added a coating of red clay slip. Both clays are hand-gathered, and the pot is made entirely in the traditional manner, which includes coiling, smoothing, stone polishing, and etching, by hand. It is fired in the ground.

The two-toned effect is caused by carefully protecting the red areas when the hot fire is smothered with dried, powdered horse or sheep manure.

This produces a chemical reaction that turns the unprotected clay black. There is no glaze: the sheen is created by patiently rubbing the matte clay with a polishing stone.

Eventually, the finish changes, from flower-pot texture to a glossy luster. The complex design you see here is scratched into the hardened clay.

Both graceful and dynamic, the design is a compilation of good luck signs, from stepped rain symbols, parallel lines of rainfall, Avanyu, the water serpent, and bear paws, around the bottom.

This olla is remarkable in the way the form and the design complement and emphasize each other, and the intricacy of the flawlessly etched patterns.

Sammy is less-well known than some other Naranjo potters, but his work is on the same level as theirs. Only the price is different, lucky for us.

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