Here we have an ADORABLE miniature mudhead figurine that I purchased at an estate as part of a lot by Santa Clara Pueblo wife and husband team Dorothy and Paul Gutierrez. Just as Santa Clara is known for black pottery, the Gutierrezes are known , for their mudhead figural pottery. Black pottery begins with natural red clay gathered from the area. From a website describing the process: "The artist generally rolls the clay into long thin rolls, then begins to 'build' the piece by layering these rolls one on top of the other. This hand coiled method includes smoothing the coils by hand to the pottery's final shape. The artist then begins the arduous task of polishing the piece. This is accomplished by rubbing a smooth 'polishing' stone over the piece over and over until the red clay shines. Finally, the piece is fired in an 'oxygen reduction' firing process. During the firing, the artist smothers the fire with horse manure. The manure traps a thick, carbon rich smoke all around the piece. The carbon contained in the smoke fuses itself into the clay, turning it black. This black color can never be removed or washed off. The entire process is fraught with problems as about 3 of every 5 pieces actually emerge from the fire without damage. Given the rarity of this pottery, artists often view the clay as a living entity. A finished piece is often revered as a gift from what pueblo potters often respectfully refer to as the 'Clay Mother'. The end result is a stunning piece of Native American pottery work of art."
Paul and Dorothy Gutierrez have been married since 1965. Dorothy is Navajo, and Paul is Santa Clara-Tewa Pueblo Indian. Both come from well-known artist families. Dorothy and Paul's mudheads are called "Koshares"; the koshare takes on the role of clown in Indian ceremonial dances, and they are intended to make us smile and remind us to not take life too seriously. This is the third piece from the lot that I bought, and on this one the signature--often done in pencil on top of the clay surface since the graphite shines against the matte finish--has almost completely rubbed off. Fortunately I know the provenance and can attest to the artist. Here is a link to the pieces that I sold by the artist couple: https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1239612820.
The pottery mudhead offered here measures about 4" long from elbow to toe and 2" tall, and about an inch in depth. Completely hand made and thus carry the perfect imperfections of hand made pieces. No chips or cracks. Remnants of signature on the bottom.
Because sometimes we just need to smile!
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