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Cochiti Pueblo Early Seated Drummer Figurine

C4123B-drummer.jpg

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Helen Cordero (1915–1994)
  • Category: Figurines
  • Origin: Cochiti Pueblo
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 8-¼” tall
  • Item # C4123B
  • Price: $6,500.00

Artist Image Source and Reference: Southern Pueblo Pottery: 2,000 Artist Biographies by Gregory Schaaf.Helen Cordero received her inspiration from a number of individuals.  Her first influence was from her husband’s aunt, Grandma Juana, who told Helen and her husband’s cousin, Juanita Arquero, to make pottery.  “You don’t have to buy anything: Mother Earth gives it all to you,” said Grandma Juana. Juanita and Helen took her advice and started making pottery but Helen’s bowls and jars just did not look right.  They were always crooked and terrible. It was then that Helen received her second influence— that of Juanita, who told her to start making animal and human figurines, which she did.

Helen was 45 years old in the 1950s when she started making pottery.  Her six children were raised and gone and she had time to pursue a career.  Helen, following the advice of Juanita, started making frogs, birds, animals, and, eventually, little people.  The two potters showed their wares at Santo Domingo Pueblo feast days one year and folk art collector Alexander Girard bought all of Helen’s human figures.  He asked Helen to make more and larger ones and bring them to him. He became her third influence. She followed his advice and he then commissioned her to make a 250-piece nativity set.  He also asked her to make a larger figure with children.

Thinking about Girard’s instructions, Helen recalled seeing her grandfather, Santiago Quintana, surrounded by grandchildren listening to his stories.  When Helen remembered her grandfather telling stories to five grandchildren in 1964, she made her first male storyteller figurine, and a career was born.  And since this was the very first storyteller figurine ever made, a new pottery figurative shape was born. Thus, Helen Cordero is known for inventing the storyteller figurine.

Another influence on the figurines of Helen was her husband, Fred Cordero.  Fred was a drum maker and a leading drummer and singer for the Pumpkin Kiva (clan).  Helen was inspired by Fred and started making drummer figurines. This is an early drummer figurine by Helen.  He has the warm cream slip from those figurines of the early 1970s. His shirt is painted with rain clouds on the front and is striped on the back with patterns at the shoulder.  He wears a headband and carries a drumstick. A drum rests on his left leg and his legs are crossed.

Helen Cordero (1915–1994) signatureHelen Cordero may have derived her creations from comments by others but it was her creative artistic talent that took those comments and made them into something extraordinary, something that had not been made before and something that influenced the rest of her life.

She was an amazing person and a talented artist.  We are fortunate that she was unable to make a suitable bowl or jar and found her calling in making figurative pottery.


Condition: this Cochiti Pueblo Early Seated Drummer Figurine is in excellent condition

Provenance: from a client living in Texas who plans to donate the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity

Recommended Reading: The Pueblo Storyteller: Development of a Figurative Ceramic Tradition by Barbara A. Babcock.  

Artist Image Source and Reference: Southern Pueblo Pottery: 2,000 Artist Biographies by Gregory Schaaf.


Helen Cordero (1915–1994)
  • Category: Figurines
  • Origin: Cochiti Pueblo
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 8-¼” tall
  • Item # C4123B
  • Price: $6,500.00

C4123B-drummer.jpgC4123B-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.