Vintage Large Hand Forged Copper Ladle [SOLD]

26152-ladle.jpg

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Unknown Maker
  • Category: Other Items
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: Copper
  • Size:
    19” long; 2-¼” deep
    Bowl: 5” diameter
  • Item # 26152
  • SOLD

This large copper ladle was used to dip water from a container, either out in the sheep camp, or inside the hogan. Running water was not available to many homes on the Navajo reservation until very recently and even today, up to 40% of  families in remote areas of the reservation don’t have running water. To quote the sheepherder, “It was nice back then, no technology to distract except the radio. Had all that open space to roam. Got to hear stories and learn to make fry bread. I got to sleep with the lambs and baby goats at night. Only because we bring them into the hogan on cold nights so they won’t die from the cold.”

When we received this copper ladle I asked a Diné friend who spent his childhood herding sheep if he knew the function or purpose of these ladles. After sending a photo to him, he answered immediately that the ladles were used to dip water. He said “Most rez sheep camps had large buckets, like those blue enamel ones you see being sold at the trading post. They used the ladle to drink out of. They’d hang it off the bucket so it was always in place. That way you didn't have to go searching for something to drink out of.”

Today, where plastic water jugs are more common, this copper ladle is a reminder of times past.

It was made of extremely heavy copper that was hand forged and stamped with just two stamps, a dot and a line. Using just those two shapes the maker created a design of triangle shapes that run the length of the entire handle, both on the top and sides. The unknown artist spent a great deal of time and attention in incising the decorative elements.

The bowl is deep and has a heavy layer of turquoise greenish blue tarnish in typical copper fashion. It is hard to date the piece, but it is most likely at least more than 100 years old. It is an important part of Navajo history, from a time before throw-away plastic bottles and smartphones, when people had to get up before the sun came up because as the old saying goes, “You have to wake up early in the morning so Coyote doesn’t get your sheep.”

Condition: The Vintage Large Hand Forged Copper Ladle is in remarkably good condition for its age. It has a coating of blue-green patina on the bowl and is still heavy and solid.

Provenance: From a Santa Fe Collector

Recommended Reading:  The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths by John Adair

Relative Links: Southwest Collectibles, Navajo Nation

Close up view of the handles designs.
Unknown Maker
  • Category: Other Items
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: Copper
  • Size:
    19” long; 2-¼” deep
    Bowl: 5” diameter
  • Item # 26152
  • SOLD

26152-ladle.jpg26152-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.