Artist Media Series
Chase “Kawinhut” Earles is one of the few Caddo potters working today. His new work is inspired by Indigenous Futurism, Star Wars, and historic Caddo vessels and designs. Each piece is hand-built and then incised with complex designs. They are each created as a pair so that one futuristic piece pairs to one of the historic vessels or effigies. This is important, as part of the intent of this show is to educate about Caddo pottery forms and designs. You can read more about this in the article, “Chase Kawinhut Earles: Caddo Pottery Revival and Indigenous Futurism“.
This pair is entitled, “The Messenger” and “Traditional Caddo Tripod Bottle”. “The Messenger” is inspired by R2D2 and paired with a three-legged jar. The Messenger is not just great clay work, but balanced and intricately designed. You can see a repetition of designs used on both pieces. Chase wrote, “I saw R2D2 as a healer, BB8 as a trusted companion whose entire life is a constant cycle like that of the rolling water of Caddo knowledge. They are adorned by our Caddo iconographic and design language as if they were born into that world or one that will be.” The small jar is traditional Caddo clay, slipped with mussel shell mixture and then burnished. Both pieces are 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.
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.