Click Here to View the Pieces in the Show You can navigate through with the next and previous links at the bottom of each page and return to the List View at any time by clicking the “WhistleStop” category in the right sidebar.
If you’ve followed my pueblo pottery career at all, you know that I have a special love for old utilitarian pottery. Pottery that served a purpose: cooking, storing and serving food and water. This show, however, is of pottery with no purpose other than providing income for the potters and their families and joy to us. And maybe that’s an important purpose after all.
I’ve long admired the creativity, skill and humor of pueblo potters in their efforts to wring an income from an ever-changing Anglo art world thrust upon them by the early 1880’s. Early influences included the arrival of tourists on trains, early Indian dealers such as Aaron and Jake Gold in 1880 and J.S. Candelario, the Fred Harvey Company and Tours, the Santa Fe Indian Market in the 1920’s, and the collecting trips of James Stevenson for the Smithsonian in the 1880’s, etc. In fact, Jonathan Batkin notes in his landmark book The Native American Curio Trade in New Mexico: “Starting in the 1880s, hundreds of people became curio dealers, selling Indian goods from curio stores, groceries, pharmacies, and other establishments–even from their own living rooms.” (Since I began my own pottery business nearly twenty years ago from my Tesuque village living room, I won’t take this personally!)
Early 1880s photographs at Acoma and other train stations show pueblo potters posing with large water jars alongside stopped trains with tourists. Apparently, the potters found smaller pieces to sell better, so a miniaturization in pottery production occurred almost immediately and was in full swing by the 1890’s.
Much of this pottery and the traders selling it, were not taken seriously; even maligned. Here’s Batkin again quoting a Santa Fe dealer: “Candelario’s was the biggest junk shop you ever saw in your life–very cleverly done.” (To this day, when we think of serious, sophisticated collections of historic pueblo pottery, we usually think of large storage jars, dough bowls and early olla’s, not ashtrays and owls!)
The result was a flood of creative and often humorous and generally small forms with no discernible purpose whatsoever. The Gold’s early photos showed pottery almost exclusively from Tesuque and Cochiti. However, this show includes early examples from Isleta, Santa Clara, San Ildenfonso, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna and Santo Domingo. No pueblo had a monopoly on creativity.
So have fun with this show which includes pottery: candle sticks, figures both animal and human, ash trays, scoops, pipes, an horno (oven), cups, miniature plates, pitchers, pottery baskets, pottery moccasins, canteens and an item or two that, well, I can figure out at all. Oh yes, and the fine young Cochiti potters, Dominick and Kyle Ortiz (grandsons of legendary Cochiti figurative potter, Seferina Ortiz) may show up with an alien or two…