Like so many, Samuel did this and that, to make ends meet, and then became a jeweler. It took a decade of dabbling in pottery before he turned to this art, full-time, as a self-taught potter.
The results have been spectacular: Since he entered his first show, he has won many prestigious awards, including Judges’ Choice at the Heard Museum Market, First place at the same show a few years later, and Best of Pottery Division at the Santa Fe Indian Market – all since 2008.
In addition, his work has been acquired by museums and private collectors, worldwide.
Most Navajo potters live in and around Cow Springs and Shonto, in north-central Arizona, where there is water.
Originally, any pots made were for their own use and needed to be somewhat water-resistant, so the pottery was swabbed with melted pinon pitch right after firing, which provided a seal, of sorts.
The dark fire clouds that appear on the russet clay, are the result of the warm clay reacting with the pinon pitch. It is a handsome feature of Navajo pottery.
This imposing olla is characteristic of Sam’s modern take on traditional, Navajo pinon pitch pottery: opulently formed, beautifully finished, and usually adorned with some sort of swirl, or rib, design.
Most of his pots are quite large; this is one of the “smaller” ones but sized just right to display on a shelf or mantel.
Like all his work, this olla has a serene majesty to it, with a definite presence. The form and subtle ribbing are flawless, as is the hand-burnished finish.
Around the rim, a stepped cut-out refers to rain, the ultimate good luck out on the high desert.
An accessible example of this much-honored potter’s work, it is a real beauty – just like all his work.
This is a wonderful piece to add to your pottery collection of major artists or to start one.
PS DO NOT place any water or liquid in this pot! It will turn to mud.