Origin: San Juan Pueblo, Ohkay Owingeh - Place of the Strong People
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Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan) Pottery and Fine Art
Traditional pottery from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo is beautiful in the simplicity of its appearance. Novice collectors often do not appreciate pottery from there because they are generally more experienced with polychrome painted pottery of the other pueblos, but the beauty in the sensuous vessel shapes and the simplicity of design eventually wins over collectors with more experience. The rich red slip over the tan clay body highlighted by beautiful fire clouds can hardly be beat for beauty.
One must remember that these bowls were traditionally made by and for use of the potter who made them. For the most part, they were not made for sale, but for their use, however, occasionally they made and sold them to Spanish households in Española and Santa Fe because the women of those households appreciated them as well.
In 1930 Regina Cata of the pueblo organized a pottery study group at what was then San Juan Pueblo with the intent of revitalizing pottery production. The group studied ancient potsherds of wares made at San Juan in earlier times and selected Potsuwi‘i Incised Ware (1450-1500) as a basis for a contemporary pottery type. By the 1950s, further development resulted in deep carved polychrome wares, which are still being produced today.
On this type, the rim zones and underbodies are highly polished red slip while the main body of the vessel remains matte. The design is carved and painted in the main body zone.
Note: San Juan de los Caballeros, as it was christened by the Spaniards, or San Juan Pueblo has become Ohkay Owingeh (pronounced O-keh o-WEENG-eh) which translates to “Place of the Strong People.” San Juan Pueblo is no more. The pueblo's tribal council restored the community's traditional name in September 2005. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson instructed all state agencies to refer to the pueblo by its new name. The new name is the traditional name for the village, used before the Spanish arrived 400 years ago. Their Feast day is June 23-24th honoring their patron St. John the Baptist.
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