This little bowl seems to be made of sikyatska (yellow clay which fires red), a particularly difficult clay to form. The polishing is linear up the sides of the bowl, a difficult and tightly-controlled technique. The interior is more roughly polished. The exterior design is simple but elegant: a thick over thin framing line with two different pendant designs. One design is simply composed of three lines; the other design is formed of triangular elements incorporating negative space with the same three lines emerging from the tip. The bowl and exterior design and were made by an accomplished artist. In contrast, the interior design was clearly added by Munsi. On the inside bottom of the bowl is the corn clan symbol; above it on one wall of the interior area series of abstract squiggles, clearly the budding imagination of a great artist.
Munsi was 5 years old when she added the interior design to this pot,. The bowl and exterior design are by her mother (Donella Tom Zacarias). Like her brother Kai (2009-21), Munsie is seven generations removed from “Old Lady” Nampeyo.
Rutt Bridges commissioned this pot from Donella Zacarias. My collection records contain the original correspondence between Rutt and Donella; it is a sweet story. Donella works for the city of Winslow and has access to a computer. Much of the correspondence is email. Rutt apparently talked to Jean about commissioning a pot from Donella. On 2/5/2002 Donella wrote Rutt introducing herself. On 2/13/02 Rutt responded explaining that “The goal of our collection is to have a great example of every potter’s work….Also we love to encourage young people to get involved, and therefore would like to ‘commission’ a small figurine from Kaniela as well.” The “figurine” became pot 2009-22. Rutt also commissioned a ladle from Donella.
Donella responded that same day: “I will..inform my daughter Kaniela, who is five years old, that you would like a pot. She will be so thrilled. With her work, I wouldn’t be able to tell her exactly what to do. I would let her just go with the flow.” Donella suggested a price for both her ladle and the pot by Kaniela; Rutt responded that the price was fine but that he wanted to add $25 for the Kaniela bowl. On 4/21/02 Donella wrote Rutt:
“It took a little longer then I had expected it to take with my daughter’s project, but we are finally in the final stages. Tomorrow I will begin our ‘rubbing’ phase to smooth out the pottery and then I will begin polishing for painting this weekend.… I will probably be able to fire this Sunday.… Cross your fingers and some prayer will see these pottery fire beautifully and undamaged. So keep us in mind on Sunday…”
The firing on 4/21/02 went well and the package was shipped about a week later. On 5/6/02 Rutt responded with a check and a hand-written note:
“I just got your lovely ladle and Kaniela’s little bowl. Please let her know that if she keeps working hard, someday she too will be a great potter!”
May it be so.
Three years earlier, when Kaniela (“Munsi”) was about two years old she “helped” her grandmother Jean Sahme decorate bowl 1999-10 in this collection: Her toddler hands modeled the design on the exterior of 1999-10 and grandmother Jean was thus obliged to include Muncie among the signatures on the bottom of this bowl. Also sweet!