Hopi-Tewa Polychrome Jar by Chapella and Tabo [SOLD]


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Grace Chapella (1874-1980) White Squash Blossom

This jar was co-signed by Mark Tahbo and Grace Chapella.  Mark was the great-grandson of Grace.  It is conceivable that Grace made the jar and Mark assisted in painting it for her.  If Mark only became an active potter in 1978 and Grace passed away in 1980, this jar must have been an early effort by him and a late one by her.  It is possible, however, that Grace made the jar earlier in her career and Mark only assisted in gathering materials or in firing processes. The extent of their collaboration will remain a mystery, but that they did collaborate on this jar is verified.

Grace Chapella (1874-1980) White Squash Blossom had been a neighbor of Nampeyo of Hano, who was 14 years her senior, and credits Nampeyo with teaching her the techniques of Southwest Indian Pottery making.  Having lived for over a century—she passed away at age 107—Chapella (pronounced Tsepela) witnessed many changes in her life on the Hopi mesa where she lived. She was a youngster at a time before trading posts and tourists were introduced to the reservation and lived to see both flourish and the demand for pottery grow at leaps and bounds.  Although her pottery, and that of others at First Mesa, is referred to as Hopi pottery, technically it is Hopi-Tewa pottery as the residents of Hano Village at First Mesa are of Tewa clans.

This large seed jar is decorated with traditional Sikyatki moth or butterfly designs, for which Grace became most famous.  Additionally, she added other identifiable features: the three triangular items painted black, red and stippled, represent the three Hopi Mesas.  The star-like elements represent corn fields and the area in which they are enclosed represents rain. The line with two short cross bars represents a dragonfly, which is associated with water.

Mark Tahbo was a Hopi-Tewa and a member of the Tobacco Clan.  He had been an active potter since 1978 and passed away in 2017.  Mark credits Grace Chapella for mentoring him as a potter. To honor her, he often painted his pottery with designs she used.  Mark carried on the traditions of Grace Chapella. It was my good fortune to have known both Mark and Grace.

Artist Collaboration Signatures for Mark Tahbo and Grace Chapella (1874-1980) White Squash BlossomJohn E. Collins, collector and long-time dealer of Native American art, made the following statement in 1977:  “…as our friendship has grown, my admiration for this woman has also grown. At 103 years of age, she is still alert and active, still making and selling her ‘potteries’ to contribute economically to her family, still helping with the work of the household, still helping with raising the children, still serving as a source of inspiration for her family and all others who come to know her—Indian and Non-Indian alike.”  His feelings for Grace are shared by many. Grace Chapella was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988.

Condition: this Hopi-Tewa Polychrome Jar by Chapella and Tabo is in very good condition

Provenance: from the inherited collection of a family from Washington State.

Recommended Reading:  Hopi Traditions in Pottery and Painting Honoring Grace Chapella, Potter.  Masters Gallery, Alhambra, CA, February 25-April 3, 1977