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Myrtle Cata Olla


Item Number: DR 2139
Pueblo: San Juan Ohkey Owingeh Pueblo
Artist: Myrtle Cata
Medium: clay and pigment
Age: early 2000s
Dimensions:  9” X 13”



Myrtle’s style is the essence of simplicity and elegance – thin walled and always graceful.

This is a very large and very striking olla embellished only with four ears of corn. There is one ear of corn at each side of the olla at the top of the shoulder curve. Corn is the symbol of life and food for pueblo people. In the artist’s traditional fashion, this beautiful olla has been hand polished quite smooth.

Myrtle specializes in contemporary hand coiled San Juan style pottery. Her pottery style is simple in appearance. It is thin walled, graceful, and undecorated. She gathers her clay from within the San Juan Pueblo. Then, she cleans, mixes, hand coils, shapes, and fires her pottery outdoors.

Two aspects of her handmade pottery distinguishes her work from any other Pueblo pottery artists.  Myrtle uses the unique micaceous clay for her pottery, but she slips and stone polishes her work. This extra step of hand polishing results in a sparkling very smooth finish not found on other micaceous pottery. Famed Nambe potter, Lonnie Vigil, deeply “admires this extra step Myrtle takes in the creation of her highly individualized pottery form.”

The other special aspect of her pottery are the forms themselves.  Myrtle took traditional shoulder olla and wedding vase forms and gave them her own smooth interpretation.  The result is a unique simply elegant form on a traditional piece of pottery.

Myrtle is a very creative artist that expands her creativity in many directions and has won numerous awards for her beautiful pottery at the Santa Fe Indian Market, the New Mexico State Fair, and the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonials at which she consecutively placed first for two years.

In their book Southwestern Pottery, Allen Hayes and John Blom state Myrtle Cata’s plain war “in some ways echoes earlier times at San Juan. It’s thin, graceful and undecorated, a result of the ever-escalating sophistication among the best potters from all the pueblos.” (126)

Condition: Excellent – original condition
Provenance: Acquired from a collector from New Mexico.

Additional information

Weight 50 oz