2010-29 Seedpot with Nampeyo “Mouse” Design

Beautifully formed seed jar with an oval opening and two bands of design elements, each arching over a mouse-like creature, one with a head crest, one without. The animal depicted is similar to the creatures depicted on bowl 2010-20 by Nellie Nampeyo (or perhaps her mother), though the design here is much more finely drawn than on the earlier bowl.

Pot 2010-29 is the finest pot by Neva that I have seen; the form and painting are first class, but it breaks my collector’s heart. The pot is obviously kiln-fired: it has the uniform “plastic” look that results from the even temperature of a kiln and the characteristic high pitched “ring” when struck by a finger, the result of high firing temperature. As such, it lacks the rich golden color and blushing characteristic of outdoor, dung-fired Hopi/Tewa pottery, one of the most aesthetically appealing characteristics of such pottery. The shape and design of 2010-29 are spectacular; the clay color is washed-out and dull. It’s like a signature cake from a great chief that is under baked: full of missed potential.

Tom Polacca, Fannie’s son and Neva’s uncle, installed an electric kiln in his home to fire his deeply carved pottery. Although he has now passed, many potters who are grandchildren of Fannie use the kiln (or others) to fire their pots. Pot-making is labor and time intensive; a substantial number of pots break when outdoor fired. Kiln firing sharply cuts down on this loss and thus offers a better return on labor, but (in my opinion) at substantial aesthetic loss. This loss of aesthetic is why the collection has so few pots in the Fannie line of descent.

This pot is one of a group of pots that were part of a 2,400 item Southwest pueblo pottery collection that was assembled by Rutt Bridges of Denver, CO over a period of about 14 years. His sister, Kathleen Hoff, is helping her brother sell the collection. In 2009 Kat sent me two CDs with information about Hopi pots in the collection. During 2010, over a period of months Kay sent me additional photographs of about 200 Hopi and Hopi/Tewa pots from the collection.