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Pot with Applied Bird and Arrow Decoration

ca. 1990 Sue Williams fired clay with piñon pitch 17 1/4 x 15 1/2 in. (43.8 x 39.4 cm) diam. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1997.124.184 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 28B

Luce Center Label

Sue Williams made Pot with Applied Bird and Arrow Decoration using traditional Navajo techniques, but she gave her design a contemporary twist. Traditional Navajo pottery typically has little ornamentation, apart from a decorative band, called a biyo', just below the rim. A small break in the biyo' called the atin ("the way out") enables the potter’s life force to escape from the pot. The Navajo believe that during the process of creation the potter’s spirit is transferred to the vessel; thus it would be bad luck to close the circle and trap the maker's spirit within the pot. In this piece, Williams does away with both features and gives her geometric designs some sparkle by embedding glitter in the pitch coating.


Animal - bird

Emblem - arrow

decorative arts - ceramic

folk art