Polacca Polychrome Inspired Contemporary Hopi Bowl


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Mark Tahbo, Hopi - Tewa Potter

Hopi potters were enchanted with pottery designs being unearthed at their prehistoric ancestral Sikyatki site in the 1890s.  They began using designs from the Sikyatki Polychrome wares being discovered.  Their modern reproductions of these designs have become known as Polacca Polychrome and they were primarily being made for sale to Thomas Keam who had a ready market for Sikyatki Polychrome wares as well as later pottery using the designs from those wares.


Today, Hopi Pueblo potter Mark Tahbo is mimicking those potters of more than a hundred years ago, who were mimicking those of almost a thousand years before their time.  Just like the potters of the 1890s were reintroducing designs from the Sikyatki potters, Mark Tahbo is reintroducing designs from the potters of the 1890s.  He is using designs from Polacca Polychrome pottery as his inspiration for some of his pottery today.


This Polacca Polychrome Inspired Contemporary Hopi Bowl is a good example of a Mark Tahbo design influenced by a Polacca design.  The layout is of a style from a circa 1860-1890 Polacca Polychrome bowl.  The central square or diamond element anchors four cloud elements that spread to the outer edges of the bowl. The dark brown scallop row represents clouds, the zigzag elements below represent lightning and the cross hatched triangle below that represents rain.  The spirals enclosing the storm pattern are lifted directly from Polacca Polychrome jars and were frequently used by Nampeyo of Hano in her designs.


The potters of the Sikyatki period were creative in design application, achieving some of the most beautiful pottery ever created from the Hopi region.  The potters of the late 1890s reintroduced us to those magnificent designs from prehistory and now Mark Tahbo is bringing those designs to our attention and sharing his talent with us as an artist by using those designs as inspiration for creating designs of his own.


Mark Tahbo (1958- ) tobacco clan signatureIt is evident that Mark Tahbo is one of the most creative of the potters at Hopi today.  He is not content to continue using the same design over and over, rather he is constantly searching the literature for new and exciting thoughts.  He exudes with enthusiasm as he explains each piece to us.  His pride in the completed product is obvious and he loves explaining each design element, where it came from, how he changed it and how proud he is of the results.


This is the first bowl we have acquired from Mark Tabho.  Mostly he has made jars but the Polacca Polychrome bowl from the Keam Collection inspired him to make a bowl. 


Condition: new

Provenance: from the artist

Recommended Reading: America’s Great Lost Expedition—The Thomas Keam Collection of Hopi Pottery from the Second Hemenway Expedition, 1890-1894, by Wade and McChesney

Close up view of inside design of this wonderful bowl by Mark Tahbo.

Mark Tahbo, Hopi - Tewa Potter
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