Since we moved, several years ago, we have discovered pieces that somehow slipped into obscurity in previous years (usually back in the dark corner of some shelf).
This beautiful little olla is one, and it is a real collector’s piece. The reason? The gifted artist’s young life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident, just as his career was taking off.
Fabian was a Navajo youngster, adopted by an Italian-American family. After he came of age, he returned to his Native area, but at Santa Clara Pueblo.
There, his creative talent went into traditional Pueblo pottery, and poetry, as well. As seen in this wonderful pot, he was a very gifted potter.
After traditionally coiling and smoothing the hand-gathered and -mixed clay, he burnished it to a gorgeous, shimmering polish with a stone.
Then, he scratched out the animated dance figures, and the sunbursts that link the sides of the pot.
The pot was smothered with dried sheep or horse manure during firing, to produce the typical black color.
Not a glaze, not soot, the color results from a chemical reaction, and is permanent.
There is astonishing detail and action in the figures: note the flying fringes of the sashes, and the hands holding the tiny rattles, and evergreen fronds.
Like a fine drawing, these dancers are etched with nuance and naturalistic perspective and movement.
Elegantly shaped feathers form headdresses and “beards” on the dancing, rain-bringing kachinas.
Suns and Rain-bringers are placed on opposite sides of the piece, so there is thematic and visual integrity to the pot.
Although the artist, sadly, will never make any more, this pot deserves to be valued for itself – it is a gem of a piece, carefully made with creativity and great skill.