The potter’s name and corn symbol are scratch-signed on the back of the handle. The ladle is beautifully formed, holds in the hands nicely, and is somewhat heavy for its size. The design well fits the shape of the ladle; the Avanyu serpent and tadpoles are both water symbols. The Avanyu image is more typical of Rio Grande pueblos in New Mexico, though Tom Polacca (2005-09) also used it on a Hopi-Tewa pot. Here the design has a blocky, somewhat cartoon-like character.

This is the only piece of pottery I know of by Don James, son of Ruth James and brother of Darlene James Nampeyo. Indeed the Blairs write that only two of Ruth’s six children became potters (Daryl and Darlene); they do not recognize Don as a potter (1999:188). Rick Dillingham includes Don on his Nampeyo family tree, but similarly does not recognize him as a potter (1994:15).

Purchase History:
Purchased on 7/23/10 on eBay from a seller in Tampa, Florida. I had been the under-bidder the day before and received an email the next day offering the ladle as a “second chance.” The original winning bid was probably a sham, since the bidder had no eBay record and more than tripled the previous bid. The seller wrote: “I received the ladle from someone who worked for a dealer in Santa Fe. The dealer, I’m sure, bought the ladle directly from Don James.” [Receipt on file.]