The Anasazi, or “Ancestral Puebloans” as contemporary anthropologists refer to them created pottery for utilitarian uses beginning about 200 A.D. They cooked in it, stored food in it, ate and drank from it. And, as anyone who has spent much time looking at the pottery from Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon or any of the early living sites of the early inhabitants knows, they spent an inordinate amount of time and effort decorating these vessels with beautiful designs.
As the need for utilitarian vessels declined, replaced by pots, pans and modern storage containers, the production of handmade pottery declined.
This was true at the San Ildefonso Pueblo, the home of the famous Maria Martinez. The 1910 census showed only 8 potters working in the village. Ethnographers at the time began to encourage women to begin potting again for the tourist market. Maria and her family, along with many others, revived the art form. Today the pottery from San Ildefonso is considered among the best of the contemporary Pueblo work.
The two pots we are featuring today were made at the end of the utilitarian period, probably between 1890-1910. Both were made to accommodate lids, but only one of the lids has survived. The lid on the larger pot has a break that has been glued together, but it is original.
When I look at these pots, both over 100 years old, my initial thought is how primitive and obviously handmade they are. They are not the uniform and near perfect pieces you associate with Acoma or Zia Pueblo from about the same time period. But the potter was trying to create something of beauty. It also seems clear that they were made by the same potter.
Was she an older potter at the end of her career? Was she a young woman just learning the craft? Was she one of those 8 potters that were noted in the 1910 census?
These pots not only fascinate me with their shape and design but intrigue me with the questions they create. It reminds me of that line from a John Stanley song, “If this old guitar could talk.” I love stuff like this.
They are in great shape for being over one hundred years old with some scratches from use, the original firing marks and a few small chips here and there. You can’t intentionally make charm like this, but today is your opportunity to buy that charm!Guidelines for Purchasing a Pot