Tahbo, Mark – Lidded Jar with Women and Parrot Men (2001)
Mark Tahbo was renown for his creative pottery shapes, designs, and firings. He learned to make pottery from his great-grandmother, Grace Chapella. Each piece reflects the symmetry and thin walls of an excellent potter. The designs are painted using native clay slips and bee-weed (a plant) for the black. This jar has a refined form with a wide shoulder and slight neck. Mark hated to make lids for his pottery and made very few. This is one of the best constructed lids I have seen of his with the clay used to keep it secure on the neck. While the shape and lid are visually interesting, it’s the design which is the center of this vessel. The imagery is a series of Hopi-Tewa women and Parrot men. The women are holding gourds for water while the Parrot men are holding corn pollen. The idea of the Parrot men was partially inspired by the figures in the Awatovi murals. However, Mark would often innovate his own creative designs for his pottery. He said of this:
“For traditional Hopi-Tewa pottery, there are no shortcuts. I feel that the younger people, they aren’t as fortunate as I was. I was born at a time where I was with the elder women who revived Hopi-Tewa pottery and brought it to this level. I learned the old style. From how to get the clay, how to process it, from start to finish. Today, it seems like the storytelling is almost gone. I always tell younger potters that it’s one of the most important foundations we can have as Hopi-Tewa potters. A story. Something to lean back on. If you don’t have that root or that foundation, you have nothing. You are just floating on your own. Soak it all in and listen to all the old stories that you can. There are just no shortcuts. You have to learn the hard way and have patience.” Mark Tahbo, Spoken Through Clay
The eight figures encircle the jar. They are painted with additional clay slips to give them color and note the little area when he etched designs on the gourds or the hair! On the bottom of the jar are swirls parrots or birds. It is almost as if they are the shadow of the figures dancing above. The jar was traditionally fired which created the blushes on the surface. It is signed on the bottom, “Mark Tahbo”. There is a pipe to represent the Tobacco Clan. It is in excellent good condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair.
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