This is an exceptional polychrome canteen by Nathan Begaye. He was a unique innovator among Pueblo and Navajo potters. His ethnic connection to both Hopi and Navajo let his clay art flow between the two distinctive styles and yet find its own unique space. His work used traditional designs, forms, and techniques, yet somehow appeared very modern. This canteen is made in the Hopi-Tewa style with a flat back and rounded front. The piece is painted with five different colors of clay and bee-weed (black). The design has a flower in the center with butterflies on the side. Note the colors in the center, as there are two different purple/mauve clays, as well as the blue and the red. The blue and mauve clays were the “rarest” that Nathan had in his collection. He would always use them sparingly, and as in this piece, where they would be the most dramatic. The colors are all stone polished before the firing. The complex painted designs and the colorations are certainly Nathan at his very best. The stopper is made from corn husk and the handle is one that he wove himself. He would always create his own straps for the canteens. The piece is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration, or repair. It is signed on the back in the clay, “Nathan Begaye”. It is from 1994. The last photo is a picture I took of Nathan when he was living in Phoenix. He moved there for several years and I would go to his apartment and see what he was working on and hear the stories about his pottery, the clays, and his firings.
Nathan Begaye was a unique innovator among Pueblo and Navajo potters. His ethnic connection to both Hopi and Navajo let his work flow between the two distinctive styles and yet find their own unique space. His work used traditional designs, forms, and techniques, yet somehow appeared very modern. Nathan was one of the innovators of Native pottery and was featured in numerous books, including “Free Spirit: The New Native American Indian Potter”, “Beyond Traditions” and others. His pottery can also be found in the permanent collection of the Heard and other museums.