Hopi Sikyatki low-shouldered vase with butterfly design, mutton-fat polish, Marcella Kahe, Schomovi, First Mesa. Ms. Kahe is a neighbor of Rosetta Huma (1983-04), mother of Karen Charlie (1995-06), and the mother-in-law and teacher of Gloria Kahe (1991-01 and 1991-02).

See Fewkes (1973:54-56, 152, and 175) for discussion of the original pot that probably served as an inspiration for this modern version. On the original pot, the six butterflies are interpreted by Fewkes as females if head incorporates an “X,” males if crosshatched (on the modern bowl, a “+”). The six butterflies are further interpreted by Fewkes as representing the six cardinal points (north, south, and above = male; east, west, and below = female). Between the butterflies on the original vase was a zone of design incorporating stylized feathers, key patterns, crosshatched crooks, triangles, and frets. “This vase may be considered the most elaborately decorated in the whole collection from Sikyatki,” Fewkes writes (1973:56). For a modern (black and white) photograph of this Sikyatki pot, see Brew (1979:516).

In contrast to the original design, Kahe has grouped the butterflies in three groups of two. The design zone between the three butterfly groups incorporates her original composition of traditional Hopi designs. (Note that the original Sikyatki design zone is more closely interpreted by Alma Chapella Tahbo on 1989-07 and Dianna Tahbo, 1992-06.) Kahe’s design is then pulled together by three areas of cross-hatching over the three groups of butterflies. Marcella’s designs are unusual in that she extends the design surface around the edge of her pots and onto the lower surface (See also, 1992-07).

Marcella (age 73) was born on August 3, 1916 at First Mesa. Her Mother (Emma Adams) taught her pottery making. She did not attend the 1989 Indian Market since she is the Clan Mother of the Butterfly-Badger Clan and was helping organize a Clan dance that weekend. She lives in the village of Sichomovi, First Mesa. On October 9, 1993, she was named an “Arizona Indian Living Treasure” at a ceremony in Sedona. For another pot by Marcella, see 1992-07.

I saw a very similar pot by Marcella at King Galleries (Scottsdale, AZ) in May 2002.

Purchase History:
Kahe entered the pot for judging at the 1989 Indian Market. Although she did not win a prize, I saw the pot at a distance during the Friday night preview and Rondela Huma, acting as a docent, showed me the artist tag. Unable to sleep with the image of butterflies careening around inside my head, I drove down to the Plaza, staked out the Kahe booth, and went to sleep. Karen Charley, Marcella’s daughter, was somewhat surprised to find a street bum sleeping in her booth when she arrived to set-up at about 7:00 a.m. I helped set-up the booth, then waited in line with Karen Charley to recover the butterfly pot from the Convention Center judging site. On closer examination, the lines on the pot seemed a bit crude to me; at a distance of 6” to 8” these resolve into an elegance of design. Taking time to think over my reaction to this detail of design, I walked around the Market for a couple of hours, declining Karen Charlie’s offer to reserve the pot for me. (If it intended to live at my house, I decided the pot would wait.) It did wait, and I purchased the pot. Only then did Karen Charley, with whom I had had several hours of conversation at her booth or waiting in line, tell me that her Mother would be pleased since she had made this big pot in order to finance a trip to Phoenix to visit her dying husband. Typical Hopi gentle grace!