Native American Pottery : Fine Native American Hopi Pottery Bowl, by Lena Charlie #57
Native American Pottery
57. Description: Ca. 1950's, Fine cream slip pottery bowl with black traditional motif. Good condition. 3-1/4" x 6-1/2".
Lena Charlie was Corn Clan and known as Corn Woman. She signed her pottery with an "ear of corn" hallmark. A number of other Hopi potters also have used the corn hallmark, so one must be careful to check which potter's symbol one is seeing. Charlie was an excellent potter. Her designs were well balanced and well executed.
According to the Museum of Northern Arizona publication Plateau, Vol 48, Nos 3 & 4, spring 1976, Lena Chio (Charlie) is known to have been an active potter from 1933 to 1961. Based on this period of production, it is concluded that she has passed away, but I have not been able to ascertain an actual date of birth or date of death for her. If the statement below is accurate, we know she was born before her dad passed away in 1918. Assuming she was less than 20 years of age when she married for the second time in 1928, then her birth year would probably have been 1908.
According to one source, Lena Chio was a granddaughter of Nampeyo & Lesou. She was the daughter of their oldest son, Qoo-ma-lets-tewa (Mad Bear), who died in the year 1918 as a result of the flu. She married her second husband, Victor Charlie, in 1928. (Personal conversation with Maurice M. Bloom, Jr., 1983).
In another reference, she is listed as Lena Charlie, and the sister to Irene Shupla and Hazel Shupla, and the mother of Sunbeam David, which would make her the grandmother of Neil David, the well-known Hopi-Tewa painter and katsina doll carver. (Schaaf)
In still another reference, she is said to be the niece of Nampeyo. When Nampeyo's vision was deteriorating, and she was unable to paint her pottery anymore, she would often take pieces to Lena for her to paint, if Annie or Fannie were unavailable to help their mom. (Kramer) (Source: Adobe Gallery)
A History of Pueblo Pottery:
Pueblo pottery is made using a coiled technique that came into northern Arizona and New Mexico from the south, some 1500 years ago. In the four-corners region of the US, nineteen pueblos and villages have historically produced pottery. Although each of these pueblos use similar traditional methods of coiling, shaping, finishing and firing, the pottery from each is distinctive. Various clay's gathered from each pueblo's local sources produce pottery colors that range from buff to earthy yellows, oranges, and reds, as well as black. Fired pots are sometimes left plain and other times decorated most frequently with paint and occasionally with applique. Painted designs vary from pueblo to pueblo, yet share an ancient iconography based on abstract representations of clouds, rain, feathers, birds, plants, animals and other natural world features.
Tempering materials and paints, also from natural sources, contribute further to the distinctiveness of each pueblo's pottery. Some paints are derived from plants, others from minerals. Before firing, potters in some pueblos apply a light colored slip to their pottery, which creates a bright background for painted designs or simply a lighter color plain ware vessel. Designs are painted on before firing, traditionally with a brush fashioned from yucca fiber.
Different combinations of paint color, clay color, and slips are characteristic of different pueblos. Among them are black on cream, black on buff, black on red, dark brown and dark red on white (as found in Zuni pottery), matte red on red, and poly chrome a number of natural colors on one vessel (most typically associated with Hopi). Pueblo potters also produce un-decorated polished black ware, black on black ware, and carved red and carved black wares.
Making pueblo pottery is a time-consuming effort that includes gathering and preparing the clay, building and shaping the coiled pot, gathering plants to make the colored dyes, constructing yucca brushes, and, often, making a clay slip. While some Pueblo artists fire in kilns, most still fire in the traditional way in an outside fire pit, covering their vessels with large potsherds and dried sheep dung. Pottery is left to bake for many hours, producing a high-fired result.
Today, Pueblo potters continue to honor this centuries-old tradition of hand-coiled pottery production, yet value the need for contemporary artistic expression as well. They continue to improve their style, methods and designs, often combining traditional and contemporary techniques to create striking new works of art. (Source: Museum of Northern Arizona)
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