Da, Tony (1940-2008)
Tony Da had a short career which spanned from 1967-82. He helped change the world of Pueblo pottery. He was among the first to begin etching into the surface of the pottery (sgraffito), adding stones, hei-shi and then began creating all matte carved vessels. His pottery today is considered to be among the most sought after by collectors and museum alike. While Tony made turtle shapes for his figurative pottery, he only made only a few turtles with lids. This turtle is one of his with a fully polished bear lid. The body of the turtle is fully polished and etched with a water serpent. For the inside of the turtle when the lid is removed, there is a silver inset. This was meant to encompass the open space created when he made the round body. This turtle is signed on the foot in the clay, “DA”. It is in very good condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair. The piece is featured in the book, The Art and Life of Tony Da on page 82.
Tony made several types of turtles. His first ones were simple and did not have a lid. His first lidded turtle was a black one made in 1971. It is now in a museum collection. He made 3 or 4 red turtles with bear lids and silver insets between 1972-4. He made two other major lidded turtles during his career. One had a turtle lid and the other a lizard lid. The turtle with the lizard lid was probably his last turtle figure, as it has the most sculptural appearance and detail of any of his other lids. At this time, we do not know of any other black lidded turtles beyond the one made in 1971.
This is certainly a classic style of Tony’s pottery and even an early piece like this bowl reflects the impact he had, and continues to have, on Pueblo pottery. The pottery of Tony Da remains an important addition to any collection!