2021-03 Plainware vase with large corn appliqué

[Double click on photos to enlarge.]


Width includes 0.625″ high middle leaf.

Early in her career as a potter, Iris made rather geometric and unusual pottery with her husband, Wallace Youvella (2017-11) but later focused on making pottery with applied corn motifs (2003-08).  She seems to have been inspired by the pottery of Polingaysi Qoyawayma (2021-02), but I don’t know if there was a direct connection between the two potters.  Over a long career Iris made hundreds of pots with appliqué corn designs, most variations of pot 2003-08 with corn that emerges gently at an angle on the pot.  These pots have a quiet Zen-like sensibility and proved attractive to collectors.  In contrast, the corn on jar 2021-03 is vertical and rises boldly from the pot’s surface  giving it a 3-D effect.


From a 1.75-inch base, the jar gently rises 3.5-inches before curving inward  about 2.25-inches to form a a slight neck. The walls are substantial but not thick.  The form is quite like a  Chinese ginger jar, an impression that is clearest when the jar is viewed from the rear with the corn appliqué not visible.  The surface was finished with vertical strokes of the polishing stone, resulting in an “onion skin” pattern that subtly enlivens the surface of the pot.  This effect is most easily seen when the pot is seen in full sunlight, the sort of sun that falls on a Hopi corn field.  The jar is clearly scratch signed “Iris Y. Nampeyo” on the base.


The corn element is added to the outside of the pot (appliqué), unlike the repousse corn formed on pottery by Polingaysi Qoyawayma (2021-02).  In  contrast to the corn on most of Iris’ pots, the corn presented here is vertical and raised more than half an inch off the surface of the jar.  The cob has eight rows of corn, clearly and carefully impressed into the clay.  The cob emerges from an elegant set of three leaves.  Each leaf rises boldly above he surface of the pot and gracefully folds back toward the base of the cob.

Design analysis:

This is the perfect ear of corn used to bless a baby as they greet the sun for the first time.  This is the perfect ear of corn that is given by the kachinas to maidens at the Niman home dance.  This is the cob of blue corn given by Masau’u to the Hopi people at their Emergence into this Fourth World.  Graceful vase, glorious corn: the impression is both emphatic and svelte.