Sgrafitto Feather and Cornstalk Olla
This accomplished potter has a slew of ribbons from Santa Fe Indian Market, and other prestigious shows, under her own belt, as well as mentoring her prize-winning nieces, Marcella and Emma.
This olla is typical of her prize-winning work: shapely, incised, and stone polished with wonderful precision and artistry, it impresses despite its modest – and marvelously easy to display – size.
Sgraffito means scratched out, and the entire, design has been carefully carved out of the stone-polished red clay slip.
The underlying creamy clay is the base, which was hand-gathered and formed in coils, then smoothed; the red clay was powdered, and mixed with water to form a thick paint, then polished with a hand-held stone when the piece was hard enough.
The complex design was “scratched in” as a final step, after firing the piece in the ground.
Around the shoulder, is a notched phalanx of stylized feathers; below a narrow band, the bottom part is designed with an intricate pattern of more feathers, stepped rain symbols, cornstalks, and triangular arrowheads.
This pattern looks like a heavily embroidered cloth. It relates that rain is needed to have flourishing cornstalks, so the people will be happy, healthy, and prosperous.
These symbols are age-old. The feathers represent eagle feathers, which are thought to convey prayers for rain up to the heavenly spirits since eagles fly so high.
The very bottom of the piece is polished and red, like the rim.
Well-formed, the shape of the piece and its designs are beautifully complementary; this is an ideal criterion of Native pottery.
Lovely form, and crisply delineated design elements, make this olla more impressive than its size would suggest.
And it is so easy to display!