Sanchez, Russell – Polychrome Water Jar with Thunderbird & Butterfly Wing Designs
This is a very intricate polychrome water jar by Russell Sanchez. He continues to be one of the true innovators and revivalists in Pueblo pottery. Each piece is perfectly coil built, stone polished, and etched. This jar has an elegant shape with a round body with an elongated neck and a turned-out rim. The jar is unusual in coloration with a white and red combination. Interestingly, there was a period in the 1920s at San Ildefonso when potters, such as Tonita Roybal, made white slipped pieces with red designs (see the last photo). The second to the last photo has the actual white clay Russell uses for his pottery in a raw form. The white is polished and all the designs incised before firing. This water jar is polished red on the inside of the neck and brown on the outside. There is a single band of brass hei-hsi beads. Around the neck are three more bands of hei-shi beads along with two rows of copper leaf. The body of the jar is slipped and polished white. There are two larger thunderbirds separated by two butterfly wing patterns. The base has two more rows of hehi-shi beads, copper leafing, and a micaceous base. The mica on the base is reminiscent of the coloration of earlier San Ildefonso jars. All the clays he is using are the same as those used in San Ildefonso pottery from the 1880s to about 1920. His deep red slip is a more recent addition to his clay art starting around 2005. 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.” The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Russell”. It is exciting to see how this imagery is not new but Russell’s reinterpretation of it both modernizes and revives.