Medicine Flower, Grace – Polychrome Carved Big Horn Sheep Jar with Lid (1988)
This is a historically important jar by Grace Medicine Flower. It is from 1988. It is one of her first attempts at both carved and polychrome pottery. The creativity and innovation of this piece in the 1980s would lead to her polychrome “basket weave” pieces in the 1990s. The bowl is round and coil-built. On one side there are three large Big Horn sheep. Their horns are polished tan and the faces and tails are polished white and gray. The bodies are polished white. The three Big Horn Sheep are carved in relief with a perspective that one is in front, one is the center, and one is behind. They are standing and sitting in matte-colored grass and a red matte log. The mountains in the background are matte with white clay on the top. There are at least four layers of carving on this jar! WOW! Extending down from the mouth of the bowl are incised sash designs turning into a red polished cloud and lightning pattern. Note the very tiny and tight sgraffito on the red sections near the rim! The remainder of the bowl is slipped with mica. The lid fits into the mouth of the bowl and it is fully polished. There is a sgraffito cloud and mountain band around the edge of the lid. While today we see more potters working to carve their vessels in various levels, Grace was attempting something creative and innovative with depth, dimension, and clay coloration decades earlier. The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Grace Medicine Flower”. It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks restoration, or repair. Definitely a piece of history in clay!
Grace said of her pottery:
Once you start designing it something just comes to you. You don’t put her aside. She tells you while your mind is still fresh to keep going. Even at night I’d have this dream about forming this piece of pottery. I would have dreams about it, think about it and then say, “This is the next one I’m going to do.” I would picture it. Once in a while I would draw it on a piece of paper while it was fresh in my mind. Grace Medicine Flower, Spoken Through Clay