Quotskuyva, Dextra – “Grandmother Spider” Jar (1990’s)
Dextra Quostkuyva Nampeyo is certainly one of the most influential Hopi-Tewa potters of the last 50 years. Not did she teach numerous potters (Steve Lucas, Yvonne Lucas, Les Namingha, Loren Ami, Hisi Nampeyo, to name just a few), but her creative designs and forms dramatically influenced the pottery itself. Like much of her work, this jar finds its origin in the stories of Hopi. The piece has a spider design on one side and a shawl on the other. There are numerous layers of thought and meaning in this jar. The spider, of course, is the “Grandmother Spider”, a legendary figure in Hopi. She is a guide for the people to this world as well as giving them weaving and pottery. The jar itself is made from Hopi clay and the design on the opposite side is a woven shawl. Dextra certainly creatively brought the story of Grandmother Spider to life on this piece! The bowl is painted with bee-weed and red clay. The red areas are stone polished. The jar was traditionally fired and there are a few blushes on the surface. The jar is signed on the bottom in bee-weed, “Dextra” along with a corn plant to represent the Corn Clan. It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration, or repair. Dextra was the subject of a retrospective of her pottery at the Wheelwright Museum along with a companion book entitled, “Painted Perfection“.
Here are some of the Hopi stories of Spider Grandmother:
“Spider Grandmother” (Kokyangwuti) also called “Gogyeng Sowuhti”. She takes the shape of an old, or timeless woman or the shape of a common spider in many Hopi stories. When she is in her spider shape, she lives underground in a hole that is similar to a kiva. When called upon, she will help people by giving advice or providing medicinal cures. “Spider Grandmother” is seen as a leader, a wise individual who represents good things.
In this story of creation, Spider Grandmother is the assistant of Tawa (the Sun Katsina). He sends her to the creatures living in the first world to deliver his word. Tawa was unhappy that his creations did not understand how to live. Spider Grandmother guided the creatures on their journeys through the worlds as their physical appearances changed to be more human. In the third world she taught them how to weave and make clay pots.