Earles, Chase Kawinhut – Snapping Turtle Clay Figure
Chase “Kawinhut” Earles is one of the few Caddo potters working today. The Caddo were a tribal group throughout the Oklahoma, Texas and Louisianna areas. Chase draws inspiration from the ancient Caddo pieces and yet they are not replicas. The connection in the ancient work is in the clay, firing, and shapes. He is primarily self-taught both as a potter and in his research of the Caddo ceramic past. He has sought out the clay sources and each piece is coil built. They are then slipped with a clay and mussel shell mixture and then burnished three times. The result is a shiny surface with the flecks of shell reflecting light. Each piece is then pit fired which not only hardens the clay but gives them fire clouds and color variations on the surface. After they are fired Chase etches into the surface of the clay to create the intricate designs. The delicate designs are almost a surprise considering the hardness of the clay after the firing.
Chase says of this piece:
“The Caddo would often create effigies (sculptures of animals or figures) in honor of entities that were around them in their life environment. The alligator snapping turtle, one of the largest turtles in the world, can weigh up to 200 lbs and can bite a broom handle clean in half. They live in the bottom of swampy rivers, ponds, and lakes”
This turtle is made from non-native clay and fired and smoked to get the coloration It is signed on the bottom “Kawinhut”. The name “Kawinhut” is important, as the last Caddo potter, Winhut, passed away in 1908 and Chase is continuing in her tradition of working with the clay and so his name is a masculine derivation of this family name.
“I am working to both preserve and expand the cultural identity of the Caddo people through the revival of their pottery.” Chase Kawinhut Earles