Many serious collectors of historic pueblo pottery do not think a collection is fully complete without an example of one of the majestic large forms commonly referred to as dough bowls and storage jars.
In his classic book, Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico, Jonathan Batkin described the dough bowl as “…a vessel of large diameter and substantial depth, usually with an upright or flared rim”. He goes on to suggest that true dough bowls, often larger than 16″ in diameter, were not common until the late 1800’s. So when we as collectors find a fine 19th century dough bowl today, we have acquired an example of a form that was relatively new in the pueblos when it was made. The function of the dough bowls was simple and elemental: they were used to knead a large quantity of dough for baking in an outdoor horno (oven). Preparing, baking in and cleaning the horno was a major undertaking so baking multiple loaves of bread at once made sense. The bread could then be stored in the dough bowl. I was once told by a pueblo potter that the very large dough bowls, over 18″, would also be used to bathe babies. So this form reflects the warmth and nurturing of the home. For this reason, when I purchase a dough bowl, it must exude use and warmth. Size, patina (contributing to rich color), design, and wear all contribute.
In regard to my own preferences, this latter point applies to storage jars as well. An important added element is cost. Storage jars that exhibit great size, condition and have desired design elements (birds, for example) can be very expensive, $20,000 or more. So part of my own search for storage jars for my clients is affordability; when all of the above elements come together and I can offer a wonderful storage jar at a reasonable price, you will find it in my gallery or on this site.
I have a great love for dough bowls although clearly I’m pretty picky about these wonderful forms. For all of these reasons, this will usually be the smallest area in terms of inventory, but I’ll keep looking.