This is an absolutely lovely traditional Laguna olla in painted with three hand ground vegetal and mineral colors. While traditional in design, the complex imagery has a modernist geometric appearance.
The designs on this olla run in a diagonal pattern all the way around the jar. The very narrow vertical lines above the black rectangles represent rain. The other diagonal element is representational of dark clouds contained within a white rectangle. Rain is critical at the pueblos for growing crops and for sustenance. The lower section has been painted with a red band.
Evelyn Cheromiah collected her own clay, used potsherds for temper, mineral and vegetal paints for the designs, and fired in the traditional outdoor firing technique. She boiled the plant materials she collected until they were a thick consistency she could use as paint. Once the vessels were dry and sanded, the hand painting began using a variety of designs, which included swirls, checkerboards and fine lines. The design ideas for many of her pots were found on old pottery shards left from hundreds of years ago.
Laguna pottery almost died out in the late 1960’s due to the number of men being employed by the railroad, thereby providing cash income for the families. With this steady form of money, it was then no longer necessary for the women to make pottery for sale to tourists. Many of them chose to purchase pottery from potters at Acoma Pueblo for use in their households. By the 1950s, many Laguna residents were working at the uranium mines on the pueblo, and the production of pottery continued to decline.
Evelyn Cheromiah received a federal grant in the 1970s to help revive the art of pottery at Laguna. She researched ancient techniques and designs, and began to teach other Laguna artists. Even today, there are only a few artists who make traditional Laguna pottery. If it were not for the efforts of Evelyn Cheromiah, Laguna pottery might have disappeared altogether.
Condition: Excellent – original condition with appropriate wear marks.
Provenance: Acquired from a private New Mexico collector.