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Nathan Youngblood

Nathan Youngblood

nathan youngblood

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A grandson of noted potter Margaret Tafoya and the son of Mela Youngblood, Nathan Youngblood has a traditonal legacy of highly polished deep carved pottery.  In 1976 he moved in with his grandparents and began an intense apprenticeship making pottery under their guidance.  Attention to the small details was also imparted to him by his mother and grandmother. The precision of his work is particularly evident in his forms, which have near geometric perfection in shape and symmetry.  Nathan says, “I realize I don’t make pots, I’m just involved in the process. The clay does what it wants to do, goes where it wants to go.  I stick my hands in the clay and where it goes, I follow.”

Nathan’s clay art has evolved dramatically throughout his career.  His early work focused on classic Santa Clara shapes and designs. In the early 1990s, Nathan re-examined his experiences with art from around the world and how it could be incorporated as part of his designs.  His love of Asian ceramics influenced how he designed his pottery and how he utilized matte and polished surfaces to emphasize form.  The designs seemed to be more complicated, less linear, and more ethereal in concept.  He “opened the door for other potters to use clay as a vehicle for their personal and cultural experiences.”

Over the years Nathan has won over 140 awards for his pottery. He is one of only a handful of Santa Clara potters who use natural clay slips to create color contrasts of red and tan in his pottery.  This combination of polished red and tan sections with matte or micaceous surfaces has become the new Santa Clara “polychrome.”  Throughout his career, he has continually built on the lessons learned from his mother and grandmother. This legacy has created a solid foundation for the evolution of his pottery and “he has set the bar high for any potter to balance creativity, innovation, and technical expertise.”

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An Interview with Nathan   Learn More about Pottery Making

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Youngblood, Nathan – Black and Tan Box with Avanyu and Double Lid

This is an extraordinary piece by Nathan Youngblood.  It is one of his few boxes and this is one of the only ones with a double lid!  The box itself is round and fully carved with a water serpent. The avanyu (water serpent) encircles the entire piece.  The lid is fully carved and polished tan.  Tan is one of the most difficult colors to achieve in Pueblo pottery.  Why?  It is water instead of a clay slip that is used to polish the piece.  Polish too hard and it is streaky, and not hard enough and it is dull.  When a piece is traditionally fired it also takes in more smoke which changes the color.  Finally, the second “lid” is carved and slipped with mica.  The story on the piece reflects both the color and designs.

“The circular box is carved with an avanyu.  It encircles the entire piece and the body is made up of various water designs  The lid is fully carved and looking down on it, it represents the land around above and surrounding the waterways of the avanyu.  I used the tan to represent the color of the earth.  There is a single hole in the lid, which represents the connection between the land and the water below. I made a “lid” which sits in the hole and it is a carved to represent a tree. It is bringing the water up from below to grow.  This is the connection of water, land and life.”  Nathan Youngblood

All three pieces were traditionally fired. The box and “tree lid” are fired black.  It has a wonderful coloration which is “water like” in appearance.  The lid is tan, which is always difficult to polish and fire.  This piece has perfect firing and the result is a caramel coloration, which is always so rich and distinctive for the tan fired vessels.   The pieces are signed with Nathan’s name and his signature of three deer tracks.  They represent his name in Tewa, which means “Deer Path”.

$ 4,500.00
Youngblood, Mela, Nathan & Nancy – Wide Bowl with Avanyu (1975)

This is a very unusual carved bowl with a triple signature of Mela Youngblood and her two children, Nathan Youngblood and Nancy Youngblood.  The bowl was made in 1975.   I asked Nathan and he thought this might be the only piece that has all three signature!  The bowl was made by Nathan and finished and polished by Nancy and Mela.  It has a very complex avanyu (water serpent) encircling the piece.  The carving is deep and the piece is highly polished.  It is in very good condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair.  It is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Nathan Youngblood, Finished Nancy + Mela Youngblood, March 19, 1975”.  Definitely a classic and historically important bowl by all three of these significant potters!

$ 3,500.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Tri-Color Serving Plate

Nathan Youngblood is known for his deeply carved and highly polished pottery. This plate shape was inspired by the traditional Santa Clara serving bowls, which had an indention for the thumb to hold them when serving.  Nathan took that shape and added the same indention on the opposite side, creating his own distinctive form. The interior of the plate is fully carved and polished a deep red. The design is a central medallion of clouds, rain, and water, surrounded by cloud motifs above and below. Interestingly, while the rim is polished tan, there are two sections which are carved into the rim of the plate. This is always technically more complicated and adds to the risk of breaking when firing.  While the shape, carving, and designing might seem like enough, Nathan also takes his pottery one step further. After it is fired, he uses small screwdrivers and scrapes the sides of the carved designs and the recessed areas, to create a visually striking contrast.  This style has been called, “the new Santa Clara polychrome”, although I usually called it “tri-color” with the variations of red, matte and buff areas. The plate was traditionally fired.  It is signed on the back in the clay with his name and deer tracks, which represent his name in Tewa.

$ 9,800.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Jar with Medallions and Impressed Avanyu and Rainbows

This is a striking jar by Nathan Youngblood which is part of his series, “The Space Between”.  These pieces are inspired by the early carved work of Sarafina Tafoya (1863-1949) and Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001).  This jar is a shape which Nathan has often used in his work.  It is a tall water jar with an elongated neck.  There are four impressed avanyu around the neck and four rainbows around the base.  Each of these areas is slipped with a micaceous clay.  The three large medallions, each has a different design.  There is one with rainclouds, one with a star and a cloud motif.  The impressed avanyus around top of the jar are inspired by the impressed work of Sarafina Tafoya.  Nathan said of the avanyu design:

 “The water serpent (avanyu) is not what people think of a ‘water snake’.  It is a reference to the way the rivers run.  They are all integrated and connect everything.  Creeks become streams, streams become rivers which become oceans.  The oceans are fed by everything around the world.  It binds us. That is why when we go to the water and throw in cornmeal and pray.  The water and water serpent connect us to the entire world.”

The impressed rainbows are another design seen in early carved/impressed Santa Clara pottery.  The last two photos show both the rainbow and avanyu designs on early Santa Clara pieces.  There is also a photo of this jar before it was polished and fired.  It’s always interesting to see a piece in process!  The jar has an exceptional amount of carving and the polishing is Nathan’s “glass-like” surface.  It is signed on the bottom in the clay with his name and deer tracks, which represent his name in Tewa, which means “Deer Path”.   Simply stunning!

“The Space Between”: Santa Clara Carved Pottery 1920-Present

$ 8,800.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Bowl with Carved Avanyu and Impressed Rainbows

This wide bowl by Nathan Youngblood which is part of his series, “The Space Between”.  These pieces are inspired by the early carved work of Sarafina Tafoya (1863-1949) and Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001).  This wide bowl has a carved avanyu encircling the piece.  The avanyu is deeply carved into the clay before being polised and fired.  Nathan said of the avanyu design:

 “The water serpent (avanyu) is not what people think of a ‘water snake’.  It is a reference to the way the rivers run.  They are all integrated and connect everything.  Creeks become streams, streams become rivers which become oceans.  The oceans are fed by everything around the world.  It binds us. That is why when we go to the water and throw in cornmeal and pray.  The water and water serpent connect us to the entire world.”

In addition to the avanyu, there are impressed rainbows around the neck of the piece. They are carved into the clay and then Nathan stone polishes the surface to his “glass-like” appearance.  It is signed on the bottom in the clay with his name and deer tracks, which represent his name in Tewa, which means “Deer Path”.   Simply elegant combo of carving and polishing.

“The Space Between”: Santa Clara Carved Pottery 1920-Present

$ 7,000.00
Youngblood, Nathan – “Deer Tracks and Rain Clouds” Red Jar

This is a deeply carved and highly polished red jar by Nathan Youngblood.  He is well known for his carved pottery and use of both traditional Santa Clara and other designs. This jar has a wide shoulder and a sloping neck.  The area around the center is fully carved with design.  Nathan says of the design,

“The jar has three different cloud designs.  One is the clouds just circling in the sky.  The next are the clouds building up to get ready to rain. The third group has the clouds and the rain coming down.  Right where the rain is coming down is where I etched the deer tracks.  The deer have come out to enjoy a spring rain.”

The jar is very fully carved and each of the sections of design builds up in concept as the jar is turned.  The four deer tracks etched into the clay are near the base of the jar.    The red clay slip is deep and rich in coloration and the jar was traditionally fired. The shape shows off the imagery and the angle of the short neck beautifully reflects the light.  While the shape, carving, and designing might seem like enough, Nathan also takes his pottery one step further. After it is fired, he uses small screwdrivers and scrapes the sides of the carved designs and the recessed areas, to create a visually striking contrast.  It is signed on the bottom in the clay with his name and deer tracks, which represent his name in Tewa.

$ 5,800.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Avanyu & Dragon Tri-Color Jar

Nathan Youngblood has long taken inspiration from the world around him.  His work for decades has drawn inspiration from both Pueblo and Asian art.  When he was a young boy, while his father was in the military, they were stationed in the Netherlands, and he said he would often go to the museums and look at Asian ceramics.  That has been a life-long love affair with those distinctive forms and designs.  This jar has a very Asian form and the designs play out the duality at times found in his art.  Around the shoulder on one side is a dragon and then the opposite a water serpent (avanyu).  Each facing the other.  There are two opposing medallions, one with Pueblo clouds and the other a cipher.  Around the neck is a band of clouds and around the base, in tan, is a band of clouds, wind and eagle feathers. The deep red clay slip on this jar is exceptional and contrasts perfectly with the tan and matte areas.  While the shape, carving, and designing might seem like enough, Nathan also takes his pottery one step further. After it is fired, he uses small screwdrivers and scrapes the sides of the carved designs and the recessed areas, to create a visually striking contrast.  This style has been called, “the new Santa Clara polychrome”, although I usually called it “tri-color” with the variations of red, matte and buff areas. The jar was traditionally fired.  The result of various levels of color and imagery make for an exceptional jar that is certainly a reflection of how Native art has become a world art, and the two are meeting as equals.

$ 24,000.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Red & Tan Water Jar with Eagle & Fish

Nathan Youngblood has long created his own “lexicon in clay” with his distinctive designs which pull from Pueblo, personal and cultural experiences.  This stunning water jar is an exceptional shape with a round body, a double shoulder and an elongated neck.  The design is a complicated story of the eagle in the sky and the fish under the water. The fish are swimming and the double shoulder of the jar is set at such a point that it becomes the waves above the fish!  The jar is very deeply carved and the surface is polished a stunning deep red coloration. As the jar is turned the eagle and fish swirl around the surface of the piece. The lowest section of the jar is polished tan.  The scene is a reflection of Nathan’s love of nature and it’s interaction with Pueblo life, culture and stories. While the shape, carving and designing might seem like enough, Nathan also takes his pottery one step further. After it is fired, he uses small screwdrivers and scrapes the sides of the carved designs and the recessed areas, to create a visually striking contrast.  This style has been called, “the new Santa Clara polychrome”, although I usually called it “tri-color” with the variations of red, matte and buff areas. The jar was traditionally fired and the result simply speaks for itself.  Lustrous!

$ 19,500.00
Youngblood, Nathan –  Double Tri-Color Tear Drop Plates

This is the first time Nathan Youngblood has created a double set of plates in the teardrop shape.  Has has made a similar style with the floating center medallion using round plates.  However, there is an increased level of difficulty in creating this concept with his signature teardrop form. The plate is made and then the “inner” teardrop plate is cut away.  Nathan then designs both of the plates so that they visually function as one unit. The inner plate has a lightning and rain design.  Note on the upper edge the deer track and the star.  “Deer Path” is his name in Tewa and so he will often use that imagery in his designs.  The outer plate has a rain and walking bear paw design around the base and above are clouds.  The rim of both pieces is polished tan, while the center is carved and polished red.  After the two pieces were fired, we had a stand made so that they would sit together. When looking straight on, it appears to be one piece.  When looking from the side, the inner plate extends forward.  The deep red clay slip on these plates is exceptional and contrasts perfectly with the tan areas.  While the shape, carving, and designing might seem like enough, Nathan also takes his pottery one step further. After it is fired, he uses small screwdrivers and scrapes the sides of the carved designs and the recessed areas, to create a visually striking contrast.  It is signed on the back in the clay with his name and deer tracks, which represent his name in Tewa.

$ 16,500.00
Youngblood, Nathan – Jar with Walking Bear Paw and Key Hole Designs

This jar by Nathan Youngblood has a traditional storage jar shape.  The jar is carved around the center with a walking bear paw design along with a keyhole doorway design. As the jar is turned there are additional cloud designs.  The carved designs are large but striking in appearance. The top and bottom sections are fully polished to Nathan’s glass-like appearance.  Simple. Elegant.  The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay “Nathan Youngblood” and the hallmark of his name in Tewa.

$ 6,800.00
Sale!
King, Charles S., “Spoken Through Clay”

Spoken Through Clay

A NEW  RELEASE SPECIAL:  $95.00, including shipping (US)! Check out the new review in the Denver Post!

 Just a few things which make this book unique!
*   The size!  The book is 11.75″ x 14.25″ and weights over 8 pounds!
*  The photography of the pottery is stunning, emphasizing the individual pieces.
*  Each caption is the artist discussing the individual piece on the page.
*  The artist “biographies” are from interviews with the artists and they discuss their art, culture, lives and history.
*  Organization: The book is not organized by pueblo or family, but entails new ways to think about the future of Native pottery.
*  Printing in Italy gives the book very high quality color and paper.
* The photos of the living artists were taken by Will Wilson using a tin-type process. He was a recipient of the 2107 New Mexico Governor’s Award for the Arts in photography!
*  The book features work by more than 30 contemporary potters and more than a dozen important historic potters.
*  There are essays by myself, Peter Held and Eric Dobkin.  They add to the overall understanding of the project a historic perspective.

_____________________________________________

August 18, Pasatiempo Review

“Charles S. King’s new book, Spoken Through Clay: Native Pottery in the Southwest, The Eric S. Dobkin Collection, is spectacularly heavy —which is a problem from a practical standpoint, because once you open it, you won’t want to put it down. With dreamy tintype artist portraits by Diné photographer Will Wilson, dazzlingly crisp images from Addison Doty, and intimate first-person essays written by dozens of artists, the book is a visually delicious, intellectually consuming foray into historic and contemporary Southwestern pottery. In short, prepare to swoon.

If you’re thinking of this as a coffee-table book, you’ll need to imagine a decently sized coffee table. The book is more than a foot tall and, when opened, two feet wide, but its outsize appearance belies the often delicate beauty of its contents: hundreds of individual pieces of pottery from Eric S. Dobkin’s exquisitely curated collection — arguably the largest and most important of its kind. Gallery owner, author, and Pueblo pottery expert King designed Spoken Through Clay to be approachable for those unfamiliar with Native American pottery. “In the age of social media, I wanted to make the book both visually striking and personal,” King said. The book opens with essays by King, Dobkin, and curator Peter Held, who calls clay “the most archival of materials … seductive, sensuous, responsive, geologic, and malleable.”

“I wanted the end result of the book to be that the reader would connect with the artists in a personal way, beyond just the art, and understand the time it takes to become an artist, to achieve success,” King said. Sprawling yet intimate, Spoken Through Clay introduces its readers not just to the beauty of Southwestern pottery but also to the fascinating stories of the people who make it.Iris McLister, Pasatiempo

____________________________________

“It’s one of the things that makes us who we are. It’s what holds our family together. We are a family of potters. It’s our identity. People don’t realize how much work goes into it just processing the clay and making it. You have to do it with your heart.”—Linda Tafoya-Sanchez

 

FEATURED ARTISTS Grace Medicine Flower • Dextra Quotskuyva • Autumn Borts-Medlock • Jody Naranjo • Harrison Begay Jr. • Jordan Roller • Sara Fina Tafoya • Lonnie Vigil • Margaret Tafoya • Steve Lucas • LuAnn Tafoya • Loren Ami • Toni Roller • Popovi Da • Linda Tafoya-Sanchez • Mark Tahbo • James Ebelacker• Yvonne Lucas • Jeff Roller • Lisa Holt • Harlan Reano • Nampeyo • Jacquie Stevens • Nathan Youngblood • Jacob Koopee Jr. • Jennifer Moquino • Christopher Youngblood • Maria Martinez • Tony Da • Tammy Garcia • Virgil Ortiz • Joseph Lonewolf • Johnathan Naranjo • Nancy Youngblood • Les Namingha • Russell Sanchez • Christine McHorse • Richard Zane Smith • Rondina Huma • Susan Folwell • Dominique Toya • Jody Folwell

Spoken Through Clay features the pottery of iconic Native American artists from historic potters Nampeyo and Maria Martinez, to contemporary potters Tammy Garcia, Virgil Ortiz, and many others, are featured in a new book published by the Museum of New Mexico Press. Spoken Through Clay: Native Pottery of the Southwest showcases nearly three hundred pottery vessels from the acclaimed Eric S. Dobkin Collection, covering a wide range of mostly Pueblo artists from the Southwest.

“The physical scale of the vessels combined with the depth of the contemporary collection [is] breathtaking,” says author Charles S. King. The book is part of a “transitional process of looking to the clay, the vessel, and the potter’s voice and allowing the pieces to stand on the merit of their artistic integrity.”

The book includes portraits and voices of renowned potters speaking about their artistry and technique, families, culture, and traditions. Many of the artists are connected by Pueblos, generations, or family members. Dynamic color photography captures the depth and dimension of the pieces, while the artists provide an illuminating perspective through narrative captions. Artists, academics, collectors, family members, and gallerists add additional insight about the lives, historical context, and importance of these potters and their work.

SPOKEN THROUGH CLAY Native Pottery of the Southwest The Eric S. Dobkin Collection
By Charles S. King Essay by Peter Held

Artist portraits by Will Wilson
ISBN: 978-0-89013-624-9

352 pages, 320 color plates, 40 artist portraits

Publication Date: August 01, 2017
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Charles S. King is the author of Born of Fire: The Life and Pottery of Margaret Tafoya, The Life and Art of Tony Da, Virgil Ortiz: Revolt 1680/2180, and numerous articles on Pueblo pottery. He has served on boards of art associations, judged pottery at prestigious events, and lectures about the art form. His business King Galleries represents many of today’s leading Native potters and important historic works in clay. Charles lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

$ 125.00 $ 95.00
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