Shapes and Forms: Plates and Bowls

Fine line and swirl geometric design on a polychrome plate Polychrome plate with a fine line and geometric design
Rebecca Lucario, Acoma

3/4 in H by 7 in Dia
Sgraffito fish, turtle, quail, kokopelli and geometric design on a red plate Red plate with sgraffito quail, turtle, kokopelli, fish and geometric design
Debra Duwyenie, Santa Clara

1/2 in H by 4 1/2 in Dia
Feather and geometric designs carved into a black plate Black plate with carved feather and geometric design
Dolores Curran, Santa Clara

1 in H by 7 1/2 in Dia
Fish and water designs inside and water design outside on a polychrome bowl Polychrome bowl with fish and water symbols inside, water symbols outside
Thomas Tenorio, Santo Domingo

2 1/4 in H by 8 in Dia

Plates and Bowls is self-defining, although the pueblos do make some plates and bowls that are really small and others really large. The larger bowls also seem to be more utilitarian than decorative while plates all seem to be purely decorative.

There are still quite a few older, unsigned large dough bowls from Zia and Santo Domingo floating around. Most I have seen were clearly utilitarian. I've even found a couple with bits of dough still in them. I've seen smaller bowls from most pueblos and miniature ones from Kimo Decora of Isleta and Thomas Natseway of Laguna.

Some potters in Mata Ortiz also have plate and bowl construction down really well, but their work is also purely artwork as the entire Mata Ortiz/Casas Grandes revival has never been about utilitarian pottery.

Above my desk is a Hopi-Tewa yellow ware bowl made by Nyla Sahmie. The inside is painted with the mythical "bird hanging from sky band" design, an image that goes back more than 700 years. Nyla is a great-great granddaughter of Nampeyo, a woman attributed with the rebirth of prehistoric Sikyatki designs and yellow ware pottery.

I've worked with Nyla and her sister Rachel to determine the authenticity of pottery attributed to Nampeyo. Nampeyo never signed anything but after she went completely blind (around 1920), her daughters did her painting for her. Fannie (Nampeyo's youngest daughter) would sign "Nampeyo Fannie" on pieces her mother made and she painted. (On her own pottery, Fannie signed "Fannie Nampeyo". Annie Healing (Nampeyo's oldest daughter) painted a few for Nampeyo but I have yet to see one that was signed.

Where Rachel checked out the physical and design characteristics of each piece and explained to me what she was looking for as she did it, Nyla just held the piece in her hands and "felt" the clay. I handed Rachel a piece that I knew was a bit different and her almost immediate response was "Nope, this isn't from Grandma." Then she handed it to Nyla who held it in her hands for a moment and said, "This was made by Grace [Chapella]. Grace lived across the street from Grandma. Grandma taught Grace how to make pottery." The piece in question was about 100 years old, decorated with Awatovi and Sikyatki-style designs and in excellent condition. It was made after most of the Hopi-Tewa made the changeover to Jeddito yellow clay, a changeover elicited by Nampeyo's success in the marketplace.

Red and black shard designs on a yellow ware bowl Yellow ware bowl with red and black Sikyatki shard designs
Rondina Huma, Hopi

7 1/4 in H by 9 3/4 in Dia
Sgraffito avanyu design on a red bowl Red bowl with a sgraffito avanyu design
Tony Da, San Ildefonso

1 1/4 in H by 3 in Dia
Bird wing and geometric design on a black on black bowl
Black on black bowl with bird wing and geometric design
Maria Martinez, San Ildefonso
2 1/2 in H by 12 3/4 in Dia
Signed: Marie
Ring of feathers design on a black on black plate
Black on black plate with a ring of feathers design
Maria Martinez & Popovi Da
San Ildefonso
3/4 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Signed: Maria / Popovi