Sanchez, Russell – Polychrome “San Ildefonso Feast Day” Water Jar with Lid
This a striking polychrome water jar by Russell Sanchez. He continues to be one of the true innovators in Pueblo pottery. Each piece is perfectly coil built, stone polished and etched. The jar has a sharp shoulder and a turned-out rim which is flattened for the lid. The white area is fully polished and designed. There is a male face on one side with hawk feathers and thunder. The opposite side has a female face along with raven feathers and lightning. Separating them is a sun design with eagle feathers. Russell said they are all the different feathers used during San Ildefonso Feast Day on Jan 23 each year. There are also two snakes that Russell said are used on the pottery as symbolic of carrying the prayer feathers. Above the designs are etched triangular mountain designs. Note how the incised areas are etched out of the polished white clay and then slipped with red and black clay for the coloration. It is a VERY time consuming to add the other clay slips to the incised areas and not have it touch the polished surface! The rim of the jar is polished a deep red, while the base is polished a lighter red. There are four inset bands of jet hei-shi beads. The lid is interesting, as it is a rounded style with a handle that was inspired by historic San Ildefonso pottery lids from the 1880s (see last photo). This style of lid and flat inner rim is often attributed to Russell’s great-great-grandmother, Ignacia Sanchez. The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Russell”. As Russell continues to innovate from historic designs, he says, “Tradition means moving forward and adding to it. You keep moving forward. If we stayed stagnant we would no longer exist.” It is exciting to see how this imagery is not new but Russell’s reinterpretation of it both modernizes and revives the clay.