Santa Clara Pueblo Highly Polished Black Pottery Melon Jar by Helen Shupla


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Helen Shupla, Santa Clara Pueblo Potter

High polish and perfect shape characterize this black melon jar fashioned by Santa Clara artisan Helen Shupla.  Helen’s creative innovation and skill earned her numerous awards for her distinctively shaped and polished bowls and jars. The construction of a melon jar is an exacting task. The artist must know precisely how much pressure to exert outward in order to form the undulating ribs. If too much pressure is applied, the vessel can crack and the piece is ruined. Helen mastered both the technique of shaping one, as well as how to polish it to perfection. 

Helen Baca Shupla (1928-1985) was born at Santa Clara Pueblo and married Kenneth Shupla, a Hopi katsina doll carver. They lived at Santa Clara Pueblo. Helen was adept at firing redware and blackware, and was well known for her ability to create pots with flawless polish.  Her pots adorn the cover of Stephen Trimble’s book on pueblo pottery, Talking With the Clay

Artist Signature - Helen Shupla, Santa Clara Pueblo PotterHelen taught her Hopi son-in-law, Alton Komalestewa how to make pottery while he was living at Santa Clara.  Komalestewa is the great-grandson of Hopi potter Nampeyo. He continues to make the melon jar design that he learned from his mother-in-law. 

Condition: very good condition

Provenance: from the collection of a family from Albuquerque

Reference: Talking With the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery by Stephen Trimble

Relative Links: Southwest Indian PotteryHelen ShuplaSanta Clara PuebloTohono O'odham (Papago)Alton KomalestewaHopi PuebloHelen Shupla

Helen Shupla, Santa Clara Pueblo Potter
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