I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I’m beginning a series of blogs on favorite pieces of pottery that have been in the gallery over the years. Most have sold, but some haven’t. Some are old; some very old, and some are contemporary. Many have a special memory or story connected to them, but not all. They aren’t necessarily the biggest, the grandest, the priciest, the best of the best; though sometimes they are. And I’m not trying to convince readers and collectors that they should love these too. These are opinions of the heart not of some false claim to an expertise which I don’t have. What all these potteries have in common is that they entered my heart; they stayed there and I don’t always know why. And finally, they remind me of how grateful I am to generations of pueblo potters; the rare and special beauty that they have brought to the world. So let me know if you like reading this or agree with my opinion. It’s ok if you don’t. I’d love to hear from you just the same.
So the first is this very old Acoma bowl. It’s an odd form, somewhere between a storage jar and a bowl though not perfectly suitable functionally for either. It’s not colorful; not large; it doesn’t boast an astonishingly complex and perfectly executed design (yet the design is perfect at the same time!). It’s condition isn’t perfect, but then again, it is.
So what’s the attraction? It’s partly the rarity; I’ve seen so few old 19th century Acoma black-on-white storage jars. Maybe not that many were made. Or maybe not many found there way into collections; were just used until they fell apart and became elements of new pieces of pottery. Maybe it’s that it seems to have been made for home use and not to sell, but I don’t know that for sure. Maybe there’s an element of memory here for me too. I bought the piece from my friend Mark Sublette who also loves old well-worn pueblo pottery and we shared some good time discussing it; even silent time I recall, just being with it; sharing an understanding that we were lucky to be its temporary caretakers. Maybe it’s its surface: well-worn with lovely patina; no major losses of slip or clay as if multiple family members used it, but protected it too. The design is simple and gently draws our eye around the jar, enhancing its structural beauty without drawing too much attention; a modesty we could say that likely reflects the character of the long forgotten potter. There’s also the sheer age of this piece possibly dating from the mid to late 1800’s. It was cherished possibly by generations of the pueblo family of its maker and then by generations of collector admirers who protected it for us to enjoy today.
So I suppose it’s like that with things we love; that all I can share are a few positive or negative or neutral features that can all be debated. Even the positive attributes don’t add up to an obvious conclusion of: “…therefore this jar deserves to be loved the most.”Or maybe like all things, it’s an unknowable past life connection; just a mystery to embrace.