Ohkay Owingeh Potsuwi’i Incised OLLA circa 1930s [SOLD]


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Veronica Cruz, Ohkay Owingeh Potter

It has been determined that this OLLA was made by Veronica C. Cruz, a potter from Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan) Pueblo who was active in the 1930s. Veronica was the great-great aunt of Clarence Cruz/Khaayay, Tewa/Ohkay Owingeh, who identified a nearly identical jar, save for a slight size difference, showing in the "Grounded in Clay" exhibit and appearing on page 57 off the accompanying book by the same name. This is an excellent example of Potsuwi'i Incised style pottery, which is an ancestral style dating back to the prehistoric era. The vessel form seen here—globular, with slightly thinner walls than one might expect of a piece of this size—is a defining characteristic of the Potsuwi'i Incised style, as is the carved tan exterior.

Potsuwi'i Incised pottery jars were originally produced between 1400 and 1600 A.D. The style returned around 1930, when a group of Ohkay Owingeh potters became inspired by the growing popularity of pottery made at nearby Tewa pueblos. Regina Cata organized a pottery study group to determine a means of reviving pottery production. Eight potters studied ancient potsherds from wares made in northern Rio Grande pueblos in earlier times. They ultimately selected Potsuwi'i Incised ware as the basis for a contemporary pottery type. This style was originally practiced by Tewa-speaking people, so these enterprising Ohkay Owingeh potters were selecting a style that is ancestral to their tribe. This new style was eagerly accepted by collectors and has remained a signature style of the pueblo for the last 90 years.

This particular piece clearly dates to the very beginning of the 1930s revival period. It shows evidence of handling and use on the interior and exterior, and it is softly patinated in the manner of late historic era pieces. A tan band circles the OLLA, covering about half of the exterior in carved rectangular forms and arrow designs. The areas above and below the band are slipped and polished, resulting in the slightly reflective red surface that appears on pottery from Ohkay Owingeh and various neighboring pueblos.

As time passed, Potsuwi'i Incised revival pottery evolved, eventually featuring increasingly complex designs, additional color variations, and other modern adornments. This piece stands as a strong example of the beginning of the revival period, when the wares looked more like the original prehistoric pieces.

Condition: one small rim chip glued into place, wear from handling and use (see below)

Provenance: this Ohkay Owingeh Potsuwi'i Incised OLLA, circa 1930s is from a private collection

Reference: Batkin, Jonathan. Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico 1700-1940, The Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 1987

TAGS: Southwest Indian PotterySan Juan PuebloVeronica C. Cruz

Condition: one small rim chip glued into place, wear from handling and useAlternate view of this pottery jar.

Veronica Cruz, Ohkay Owingeh Potter
26314-san-juan.jpg26314-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.