This is a gem of a jar. The small size, sensuous curves of the nine lobes, and flawless polish combine to create great elegance. The lobes are not perfectly symmetrical. Some might see this as a flaw; for me the slight asymmetry gives the pot energy and character. Alton has become quite well known for his pottery, especially the melon shape used here.
Until I saw this pot I was not aware that Alton’s wife Jeanne also helped with making pottery. Since I bought this pot I have seen a few carved pots made jointly by the couple. According to Charles King, they only worked together for a few years and their pots were formed by Jeannie and carved by Alton. Since the ribs on bowl 2011-12 are not carved but formed by pushing out the sides of the vessel from the inside, it is not clear what role each partner had in forming this pot.
Alton Komalestewa is descended from Nampeyo through his father and other males, not a defining relationship in his matriarchal society. He grew up and married in Santa Clara pueblo. His mother-in-law, Helen Shupla, taught him to form thin-walled melon bowls by pressing out the ridges from the inside, as was done here. Tragically his wife Jeanne died young in 1989; his father and mother-in-law also died within a short time. Devastated, Alton moved to Hopi, where Jake Koopee, Jr. helped him learn how to use Hopi clay. (See the description for 2008-04 for a discussion of this mentorship.) Obviously 2011-12 was made in 1989 or earlier. I am told that Alton returned to Santa Clara in 2001.