WIldlife Incised Seed Pot

Wallace Nez



Wallace Nez is a living legend for his unbelievably intricate seed pots, featured in museum and private collections.

He is one of the few Navajo potters (who are few in number, anyway, because of arid conditions on the reservation) whose incised pieces are made of hand-gathered, natural clay, coiled and formed by hand.

This seed pot features four of the most important animals in Native culture: the bear, the eagle, elk and deer.

The message incorporated in the design is meaningful and important; the execution and design are simply breathtaking.

Bears are Guardians of the North, whose strength and power are symbols of protection, and whose hunting and survival skills bless the humans who revere them.

Eagles are Guardians of the Sky, soaring so high that they are thought to carry prayers up to the heavens. Thus, eagle feathers are sacred.

Elk and deer are prey animals, hunted for meat, leather, and their antlers.

The message of this seed pot is to give prayers and blessings for good health and prosperity, and also to thank the animals whose sacrifice make this possible.

The row of delicate butterflies, around the hip of the pot, refers to thriving crops, which butterflies help to pollinate; more good luck symbols.

Working with natural clay, this artist has formed a magnificent seed pot, so intricately decorated that it appears embroidered.

The bottom is carved and painted into an amazingly life-like Navajo ceremonial basket, in traditional colors and design.

The row of dainty butterflies is painted over the highest coil of the basket. Note that the basket coils are carved and dimensional, while the butterflies are painted on a flat clay surface, yet seem to be overing over the basket!

Above the butterflies, begins a series of nine concentric borders, each of which is different, and exquisitely precise in its minuscule design.

The motifs vary between rain and water signs, and feathers, which denote prayers. These borders also vary; some are incised and painted designs, and some are painted on a flat surface.

They are all elaborate, and incredibly crisp. On opposite sides of the pot are the painted animal heads, some of which are also in relief.

Each of the four animals has a rounded border above it. Again, each one is different.

The bear is carved out from the creamy clay background, and painted with startling realism.

He is in full roar, fangs showing, with abundant fur and bulk. His nose just crosses the painted border above him, which gives the illusion of depth.

The eagle, overlaps the right side of the bear, so the feeling of depth is continued.

It, too, is painted with consummate skill, with every feather, the fierce beak and glare showing up beautifully.

Two stars, suggesting both the heavens and the four corners of the earth, are painted next to the eagle.

On the other side, the elk, like the bear, is raised in relief, and his long antler extends over the painted borders, to increase the illusion of depth.

The doe is seen with head raised and alert. Realism, depth, perspective, are all brilliantly painted.

Wallace reveals that he often uses a single hair of his little daughter’s, as a brush, to perfect his incredibly delicate and detailed elements.

Each piece of this artist’s is a precious and timeless collector’s delight. He produces incomparable works of art.


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