Artist Media Series
WOW! This is an exceptionally detailed tri-color storage jar by Nathan Youngblood. The piece is fully carved and polished, deep red, tan, and buff. The shape of the jar is a classic storage jar with a round shoulder and short neck. Storage jars are a form that has a lot of “volume” when they are fully carved, as there is a lot of surface space. This jar has four medallions that tell the story of Santa Clara Pueblo’s “traditions”. The shape, of course, is the foundation of Tafoya family tradition, as Nathan’s grandmother (Margaret Tafoya) and great-grandmother (Sarafina Tafoya) were both famous for their very large storage jars. The first medallion has a tan bear paw in the center. It is surrounded by the key-hole doorways often seen in ancient Pueblo dwelling in Puye or Chaco Canyon. The bear paw shows this continued legacy to the past and the emergence of modern Pueblo pottery. As the jar is turned the next medallion is a water serpent surrounding a star. The water serpent (avanyu) is a classic image seen on Pueblo pottery. The next medallion has the sun rising over the mountains near the Pueblo. Finally, the last medallion represents daily life with clouds, rain, and lighting. Note the small incised arrow and the deer tracks. It is to remind us that each day, just as in the past, we seek out food, shelter, and family to make life complete. Separating each of these medallions are sections with rain, lightning, and cloud designs. Around the neck are cloud patterns in a matte band and near the base are waves. The neck is fully polished red and the base is tan. The carving is amazingly deep with sharp edges and the sections are polished a deep red. It was traditionally fired and on Nathan’s red pieces, after they are fired, he uses screwdrivers to scrape the background area and the side of the carving (see last photos) This can take almost as much time as the carving or polishing itself! Amazing the amount of time that goes into each vessel and yet how stunning they appear! It is signed on the bottom in the clay with his name and hallmarked name in Tewa, which means “Deer Path”.
Nathan says of his pottery:
“I’ve come to realize that each pot was a prayer. When you are designing, you convey your message using the symbols of a prayer. That’s why most of the pieces we make have some sort of water design on it. A prayer for water—rain, snow, some sort of moisture. Living in the Southwest, everyone is thinking about water. It’s a collective way of praying for moisture. Anything that will hold water, I put some sort of a water design on it.” Nathan Youngblood, Spoken Through Clay.