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Grace Chapella (1874-1980) White Squash Blossom


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Grace Chapella signature

Grace Chapella was born February 4, 1874, at the Tewa village of Hano at First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation.  This was just a decade after the end of the Civil War, and two years before Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  It was also eight years before the Reservation was established as such.  She witnessed the first horseless carriage arrive on the Reservation and recalled how frightening it was.  In 1927, she became the first person from Hopi Pueblo to fly in an airplane, going from the Grand Canyon to Long Beach for a pottery demonstration.

Having lived for over a century—she passed away at age 107—Chapella (pronounced Tsepela) witnessed many changes in her life on the Hopi mesa where she lived.  She was a youngster at a time before trading posts and tourists were introduced to the reservation and lived to see both flourish and the demand for pottery grow at leaps and bounds.  Although her pottery, and that of others at First Mesa, is referred to as Hopi pottery, technically it is Hopi-Tewa pottery as the residents of Hano Village at First Mesa are of Tewa clans.

Grace Chapella was a next-door neighbor of Nampeyo of Hano, who was 14 years her senior, and credits Nampeyo with teaching her the techniques of pottery making.

Many of Chapella's designs are from the Sikyatki ruins. The butterfly (or moth) design is the one most identified with her.  The butterfly or moth is now considered as belonging to the Chapella family.  Her daughter Alma Tahbo, granddaughter Deanna Tahbo, and great-grandson Mark Tahbo have continued to use it on their pottery.

 

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