Red Pictorial Olla

Sue and Tom Tapia



This couple were highly noted for their collaborative pottery: Sue coiled, formed, carved and stone polished the pots, while Tom did the amazingly precise and complex sgrafitto etching.

We will miss his exquisite skill, since he died in 2015. This is one of the last pots that he worked on, left in our inventory – and it is a fitting legacy.

The pleasingly plump shape and carefully formed neck are remarkable in themselves, and Tom’s incredibly precise carving makes this olla truly exceptional.

Despite the variety of different elements, the repetition of rows of stylized feathers creates a wonderful harmony and integrity to the overall design.

An undulating Avanyu, the Water Serpent, coils around the shoulder, showing up beautifully against the textured, beige base clay.

A circle of feathers embraces the pot just beneath this. These are both framed with a band of polished red clay, with a carved line above and below.

These bands emphasize the shape of the olla, and set the top designs off from the bottom, pictorial vignettes.

There are four etched vignettes around the bottom half of the pot: two are Sunfaces, surrounded by a circle of feather forms; the other two depict a Deer Dancer, and a ceremonial drummer.

A cornstalk. bean plant, bear track, deer track and other good luck signs flank the central “pictures”.

Rounded, deeply carved  bands, showing a narrow strip of matte red clay, surround each of these sections, while a feather fan decorates the interstices between them.

The designs perfectly match the shape of the pot, and are each etched with astonishing precision and beautiful detail.

The Sunface segments, and the feather fans, are like lace doilies.

The pictorial segments are like silhouette paintings, against the lightly textured, matte beige backgrounds.

Sue continues to produce lovely pots, but Tom’s complex decorations, sadly, are no more.

This is a superb pot, by an award-winning team that is now dissoved. Nevertheless, art and beauty live on forever.


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