Unique Zia Pueblo Historic Pottery Jar with Monochromatic Designs


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Rita (Salas) Shije Kayeiti’, Zia Pueblo Potter
  • Category: Historic
  • Origin: Zia Pueblo, Tsi-ya
  • Medium: clay, pigment
  • Size: 8-½” height x 10-¾” diameter
  • Item # C4605B
  • Price: $5500

This historic jar by Zia Pueblo artist potter Rita [Salas] Shije Kayeiti is unique in design and color. It is warm in the visual appearance of the singular brown pigment on the soft cream background slip. The vessel shape is also different from that which is often seen at Zia Pueblo. It is another striking element of appeal.

The narrow base of the jar expands outward as it rises, achieving its widest at midpoint of the vessel, it then rolls inward and upward to a short rim. It is the combination of a beautiful vessel shape, dark cream patina, and enchanting design that set this vessel apart from others of its time period.

The design on the vessel body stretches from the base to the rim, yet is light and fanciful rather than heavily oppressive. The red underbody traditionally applied to historic Zia jars was eliminated by this artist in favor of extending the cream slip to the base and using the extra space for design. Floral elements spring up from the base in the form of plants outlined in brown pigment and left unpainted on their interior. The rim is filled with tilted brown bars enclosed within framing lines. Below the tilted bars is a wide framing line outlined in a pair of thin framing lines, all of which feature a ceremonial line break. Suspended from this are triangular brown elements, each with three circles, the element then surrounded by a long and graceful sweeping line of brown triangular clouds. The tip of this supports two graceful large unpainted leaves, outlined in brown and enclosing small polka dots at the ends. The overall feel of the design is that of a forest. This is further supported by the placement of brown deer within the forest.

The overall feel of the jar could be one of weakness because of the lack of red in the design, but actually the beauty was enhanced by that choice. The struggle of dark designs was replaced by a feeling of calmness. The jar is certainly one of the prizes from Zia Pueblo from the turn of the last century.

Zia Pueblo artist potter Rita [Salas] Shije Kayeiti created pottery long before signatures were the norm. These pots were made for her and tourism has not yet taken off nor had New Mexico even been a state of America's Union and still a Untied States territory. These were different times and the pottery created was utilitarian and very beautiful at the same time.

"Rita [Salas] Shije Kayeiti' (ca. 1867 to 1875-1956) was the daughter of Pablo (or San Antonio or Manual) Salas (ca. 1830 to 1842-1932) and San Juanita (or Juana or San Juana) Medina Salas (ca. 1843-1931). She married Isidro Shije (ca. 1865 to 1870 - ?) about 1895, and they had three children: Virginia Galvan Salas (ca. 1895-1984), Luciana (1898-1994), and José Juan (1917-1997). [Harlow & Lanmon 2003:308]

We know of Rita Salas Shije's work through a photograph by Edward S. Curtis and photographs of pottery by her from the R. M. Camp Company, 1922, and the Julius Gans Store, Santa Fe, 1921. The jars in these two photographs share a graphic layout of a significant area of undecorated space. The jar from the Julius Gans photograph has paired oval dotted-leaf forms at the terminals of the hatchuring that are identical to those on the jar in this presentation. There is no doubt that the artist of the two are the same. [ibid]

Condition: this Unique Zia Pueblo Historic Pottery Jar with Monochromatic Designs by Rita [Salas] Shije Kayeiti is in very good condition

Provenance: from the private Colorado collection of a family from San Diego, California

Recommended Reading: The Pottery of Zia Pueblo by Harlow and Lanmon

Relative Links: Southwest Indian PotteryZia PuebloHistoric PotterRita [Salas] Shije Kayeiti'

Alternate view of this vessel.