Sanchez, Russell – Small Gunmetal Fired Bear with Rain Designs
This is a small but classic bear by Russell Sanchez. He continues to use traditional techniques and materials to create his stunning works in clay. This bear is highly polished and fired to a silvery coloration. Russell achieves this coloration by firing very, very hot. The bear is coil built so it is hollow on the inside. The back is etched with designs before it is fired. The designs on the back are a rain pattern and a cloud pattern. There are four rows of inset hematite hei-shi beads across the back of the bear. The eyes are turquoise. So, why hematite? Russell has begun to use it on his recent pieces for several reasons. There is a traditional aspect in that women wear hematite bracelets when they do certain traditional dances at the Pueblo. There is also hematite content in the clay slips use on the pottery. Russell also notes that when he is able to fire his pieces to a gunmetal appearance, the hematite captures the shine and also gives them a contemporary appearance. As Russell has said
“I’m a traditionalist all the way through. Innovation is part of our tradition. You use the same materials and tools that you have, and the same design elements, and the Clay Mother will come through you for what she wants you to do,” he explains. “Instead of doing the same cloud pattern or serpent pattern, you take that and make it your own. So, in fact, everything I’m doing is old, but new.” Russell Sanchez, Southwest Art Magazine
This bear is a stunning example of how the history and culture of San Ildefonso Pueblo are modernized in concept in his hands. The bear is signed on the bottom in the clay. Simply stunning!