Naha, Helen “Feather Woman” – Awatovi Star Design Jar (1970’s)
This is a classic wide shoulder jar by Helen Naha, also known as “Feather Woman”. She created distinctive pottery using the white clay slip throughout her career. The designs were all painted using bee-weed (black) and natural clay slips. She learned to make pottery from her mother-in-law, Paqua Naha yet had her own style in form, imagery, and composition. Helen is known for her revival of the pre-historic Awatovi pottery. Awatovi is one of the ruins near Hopi where a white slipped style of pottery was made. It is a fascinating place as it was where Coronado made contact with the Hopi in 1540. During the excavations in the 1930s, the whiteware pottery was rediscovered. It was the imagery from his work which inspired much of Helen’s early pottery, as opposed to the more classic Sikyatki inspired pottery of Nampeyo.
This jar has the “Awatovi Star” pattern painted on the top and the bottom. The shape of the jar is exceptional, as it is wide with a sloping base to a sharp shoulder and a short neck. This a shape that reveals more of the painted imagery when viewing from the side or top. Around the shoulder is her “eternity band” design. The inside of the bowl is also polished, which Helen tried to do on most of her pottery when she could reach her hand inside. The jar has been traditionally fired and there is some variation to the color from the firing, which certainly adds to the beauty of the piece. The jar is in very good condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair. It is signed on the bottom with her hallmark feather.