2013-12 Seedpot with Geometric Design

Seedpot 2013-12 is symmetrical, of even thickness, and smoothly sanded on the inside. The design is classic Nampeyo family with thick and thin framing lines bounding the painting. A cluster of design elements is evenly repeated four times around the shoulder of the jar. One pointed element is painted red and forms a sun-like pattern when seen from above. The other painting is black and includes a half circle, followed by three long parallel lines followed by a set of six or seven short lines perpendicular to the three long lines. Together these elements form a version of the Hopi rain cloud symbol. The jar is signed “Nampeyo/Nellie.”

For a more complete review of “Nampeyo” signed pots, see Appendix E.

Pot 2013-12 joins a substantial set of pieces in this collection that are signed “Nampeyo” on the bottom and were likely formed by “The Old Lady” after 1930, when she was largely blind and the Museum of Northern Arizona requested that potters sign their work. (See Nampeyo—Signed in the Index of Artists.) The pots were painted and fired by a daughter. Pot 2013-12 is unusual in a couple of ways.

First, while most of these signed pieces carry only the name “Nampeyo,” three others in the collection indicate the painter on the second line.  Two of them, like pot 2013-12, indicate Nellie as the painter (2003-07 and 2019-08) and one lists Fannie as the painter (2007-12).

Second, pot 2013-12 challenges our assumptions about the quality of Nellie’s pottery. The polychromatic decoration, while not exceptional, is clearly and confidently painted. Such quality is at variance with Nellie’s reputation. Her black paint is often fugitive because she did not grind her hematite pestle long enough with the organic fixative, and her pots are often under-fired. (See 1991-03 and 1993-02 for lesser-quality Nellie jars.) Like wedding vase 2010-04 in this collection, jar 2013-12 exceeds our inaccurate expectations of Nellie.