Black on black gunmetal jar with geometric design
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Popovi Da, San Ildefonso, Black on black gunmetal jar with geometric design
Artist: Popovi Da
Pueblo: San Ildefonso
Dimensions: 4 in H by 6 3/4 in Dia
Item Number: misih1150
Price: $ 17500
Description: Black on black gunmetal jar with geometric design
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Popovi 1065
Date Created: 1965
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Popovi Da

San Ildefonso
Popovi Da and Maria Martinez
A band of feathers around the shoulder of a black on black wedding vase
 

Popovi Da (1922-1971) was the youngest son of Julian and Maria Martinez. He was named Antonio Jose Martinez at birth but changed that legally to Popovi Da (Red Fox) in 1948. He grew up learning to make pottery with his parents while he attended the San Ildefonso school, then Santa Fe Indian School. Among his fellow students at SFIS were Harrison Begay, Quincy Tahoma, Allan Houser, Pablita Velarde and Andy Tsihnahjinnie. It was in their company that he developed really fine technical skills as a painter, jeweler and watercolor artist creating works featuring wildlife, geometric designs and abstract symbolism.

He was drafted by the US Army in 1944 and was stationed at Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. After he was discharged from the Army, he and his wife Anita returned to San Ildefonso and opened the Popovi Da Studio of Indian Arts. The Studio offered works for sale from many San Ildefonso potters and included a museum of some of the finest works by Popovi's mother and by other fine Native American artists. Popovi served as Director of the School of American Research, Chairman of the All-Indian Pueblo Council and served on the board of the New Mexico Arts Commission during those years. He also served six terms as Governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo.

He began painting pottery with Maria and his sister-in-law Santana around 1950. At first Santana would outline the designs and Popovi would fill them in. In 1956 Maria enrolled him in painting pots full time for her. He also took over the digging and preparing of clay as his father had done before him and became Maria's sole working partner. At that point Maria changed her signature from Marie back to Maria and they signed Maria and Popovi together, and later added a date. It was during those years that he began working to revive the making of polychrome pottery at San Ildefonso after 40 years of producing primarily black-on-black wares. He didn't make a pot alone until 1962. It was after that that he was sometimes too busy with his own pieces, politics and religious affairs of the pueblo to paint for Maria. That was when Maria's signature became Maria Poveka and the pieces were undecorated. However, Popovi's technical decorating skills were so high that his pieces alone and those he made with Maria are among the most valuable and most collectible of all Pueblo pottery.

Popovi was known as the Great Experimenter because he developed the techniques for producing the gunmetal and sienna finishes, both produced by manipulating the firing process. It was Popovi who also is believed to have developed the first turquoise inlay, a technique now employed by maybe 100 different potters in several different tribes. Sgraffito (ie: to scratch) is another technique pioneered at San Ildefonso by Popovi Da as it had never been used before on San Ildefonso pottery.

Popovi began working to revive the San Ildefonso polychrome style in 1956 and entered the first polychrome piece he was happy with in the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial in 1957. It earned the Best of Class ribbon. In 1967 the Institute of American Indian Art presented the Three Generations show in Santa Fe, NM, and at the US Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, featuring works by Maria, Popovi and Popovi's son Tony Da. Since his untimely death Popovi's work has been featured in several major exhibitions and shows and some of his pieces are in the permanent collections of several major museums around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the the Museum Fur Volkerfunde in Berlin, Germany.


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San Ildefonso Pueblo

Sacred Black Mesa
Black Mesa at San Ildefonso Pueblo

San Ildefonso Pueblo is located about twenty miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, mostly on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande. Although their ancestry has been traced as far back as abandoned pueblos in the Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado, the most recent ancestral home of the people of San Ildefonso is in the area of Bandelier National Monument, the prehistoric villages of Tyuonyi, Otowi, Navawi and Tsankawi specifically. The area of Tsankawi abuts the reservation on its northwest side.

The San Ildefonso name was given to the village in 1617 when a mission church was established. Before then the village was called Powhoge, "where the water cuts through" (in Tewa). Today's pueblo was established as long ago as the 1300's and when the Spanish arrived in 1540 they estimated the village population at about 2,000.

That village mission was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to reclaim the San Ildefonso area in 1694, he found virtually the entire tribe on top of nearby Black Mesa. After an extended siege the two sides negotiated a treaty and the people returned to their village. However, the next 250 years were not good for them. Finally, the Spanish swine flu pandemic of 1918 reduced the tribe's population to about 90. The tribe's population has increased to more than 600 today but the only economic activity available for most on the pueblo involves the creation of art in one form or another. The only other jobs are off-pueblo. San Ildefonso's population is small compared to neighboring Santa Clara Pueblo, but the pueblo maintains its own religious traditions and ceremonial feast days.

San Ildefonso has produced fine ceramic art since early pre-Columbian times. The pueblo is most known for being the home of the most famous Pueblo Indian potter, Maria Martinez. Many other excellent potters have produced quality pottery from this pueblo, too, among them: Blue Corn, Tonita and Juan Roybal, Dora Tse Pe and Rose Gonzales. Of course the descendants of Maria Martinez are still important pillars of San Ildefonso's pottery tradition. Maria's influence reached far and wide, so far and wide that even Juan Quezada, founder of the Mata Ortiz pottery renaissance in Chihuahua, Mexico, came to San Ildefonso to learn from her.

San Ildefonso Pueblo location map


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Pottery Care & Consideration

  • The most obvious tip: Yes, the pots will break if you drop them!
  • Do not expose pottery to water (Inside or outside). Do not wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Dust pottery only with a soft, smooth cloth (no terry cloth or textured fabric). A very soft paintbrush (sable or camel) can be used.
  • Always use two hands to carry your pot: one on top and one on the bottom, or one hand on each side. Be careful with handles, they can be fragile. Do not grip or lift pots by the rim. Take care when wearing jewelry, rings can scratch the finish.
  • Place a piece of felt or cloth between the pot and the shelf to protect the signature.
  • Avoid exposing pottery to extreme temperature changes.

For those who live in "earthquake country" (also good for mischievous pets):

  • Weigh pots down with a small zip lock bag containing sand, glass marbles, rice, etc. Do not fill the pot more than one third full as you want them bottom heavy. Remember to remove the weight before moving.
  • Secure your shelves; make sure they are well attached to the walls. Shelf brackets should be of sufficient length and strength to support the weight of your pottery.
  • Prevent pots from sliding. Consider attaching a small wooden molding to the front of shelves. Line shelves with non-slip material (a thin sheet of rubber foam, Styrofoam sheeting, etc.)
  • If you need assistance with special problems, major cleaning (your grandchild spills ice cream on your pot), restoration or repair (the cat breaks a pot), or replacement (irreparable damage), please feel free to call us.

We hope these ideas help you maintain the beauty and value of your pottery for years of enjoyment.

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