Corn is at the core of Hopi life and no pot in the collection makes this statement more directly than this vase.  A few pots in this collection depict painted images of corn (1999-10, 2010-08 and 2012-07) and other plainware pots have repose corn cobs (2006-03, 2021-02 and 2021-03).  Jar 2024-04 is unique is depicting a botanical diagram of  the whole corn plant: roots to stem to leafs to cobs and tassel.

The pot is signed “FA” and this may indicate Faye Avatchoya was the maker.  She was active as a potter about 1930 to 1960 and belonged to the Corn Clan in Hano.


The walls of vase 2024-04 are almost one-third of a inch thick and thus the vase seems heavy for its size and feels substantial in the hand.  The external polishing striations are parallel, vertical, and evenly-spaced.  The inside has been smoothed but not polished.  There is one tight crack from the rim downward for about 2-inches.  The blushing on the exterior from the dung firing is a rich golden color with a few lighter-color patches.  The interior near the mouth is slightly blushed, but most of the interior is the light beige color of the core clay.


The rim of the vase is painted black.  The black paint of the leaves is somewhat fugitive.

The design is three repetitions of the full structure of a corn plant.  The ears of corn are red with black paint delineating the kernels.  All other design is done with black paint. Each plant shows:

  • Four or 5 roots.
  • A 5-inch stalk
  • Two sets of 2 cobs of red corn, the lower pair smaller than the upper pair. Each cob has 3 rows of kernels with 5 to 8 kernals in each row.  At the center of each kernal is a black dot.
  • Two sets of solid black leaves.  One pair grows between the sets of corn cobs and one set sprouts above the corn. The leaves  attach to the stalk at slightly different points.
  • A tassel at the peak of the stem, itself displaying 4 or 5 small stems overlaid with a dozen or more points of feathery stippling.


Design Analysis:

The 3 rows of kernals in each cob, each with a black dot in the center is a typical depiction of corn, but it is also the pattern used to represent cultivated fields (cf pot 2024-02 and Patterson, 1994:164).

A label on the bottom notes that the vase might have been made in the 1940’s and this might be a reasonable guess since the vase displays a simple and expressive design that qualifies it as “folk art.”  By the 1970’s pottery from the Hopi mesas was becoming more popular, prices rose with demand, and it was transitioning to fine art with buyers demanding thiner walls and more exactness and complexity of painting.

The design is simple but dramatic, especially if the viewer recognizes the central role of corn in Hopi culture and the enormous amount of work that is devoted to its cultivation in the high desert.

“One of the most important metaphors likens Hopi life to corn. Corn is the foundation of Hopi life; it was so chosen at Emergence and it continues to shape and guide Hopi lives today. Corn not only provides the Hopi with sustenance but also gives them a conceptual framework that maps out their path through life. The stages of human life…are metaphorically linked to stages in the growth of corn plants…. [A] life of fulfillment comes by growing corn by hand” (Sekaquaptewa and Washburn 2006:28).

Vase 2024-04 is this quote in visual form.  To be Hopi is to live life by a core set of values.  The katchinas visit the villages of the Three Mesas to remind and instruct people of these values.  When the community adheres to these instructions, rain comes to the fields as a blessing, corn grows, and there is sufficient food.  Thus the corn plants on vase 2024-04 represent not only the result of hard work, but the culmination of a way of life.  Understand that these images are sacred.

Purchase History:
Purchased on Ebay 4-30-24 from Jerry Weisberg Tribal Antiques in Pinole, CA. When asked about provenance, he replied "I purchased this pot at Bonhams & Bonhams, over 10 years ago as part of a lot of 4 large Hopi pottery items. At that time it was the major auction house in California. Since moved to LA. There was no other collection history."