This piece is one that Russell has been working on for well over a year. From the time he begins gathering his clay, to the coiling and drying, designing and incising, and then traditionally firing, it is a remarkable amount of time involved in the process. This is an old-style water jar – classic form in the San Ildefonso tradition. Russell explained that he was Inspired by Florentino and Martina Montoya. When I went to MIAC (Museum of Arts and Culture) in Santa Fe to the opening of the Voice of Clay exhibition – the pottery of San Ildefonso from 1600 to 1930, I was overwhelmed by the artistry and sense of tradition in the large pieces I saw. Looking at this new large jar from Russell, I can see just where that inspiration originates.
This polychrome piece has a sun design on the rim. It is that dark, deep beautiful red tone. If you look inside the opening, you can see how far down Russell is able to polish the neck. Right below the rim is a black polished dotted band representing the night sky. That is bordered by inlaid superfine black jet Heishi. The deep red polished neck is incised in great detail. Russell is telling the story of the great birds. Each of the three birds is in a different pose. Wonderful floral elements separate the birds. More dots are created to border the polychrome checkerboard pattern of red/tan/black tones. In the 1880s to 1920, these color combinations were common. The main shoulder of the jar is covered with a complex pattern that Russell has designed to represent thunder and clouds. He shows the life cycle of germination. The sun rising and the darker color representing the nighttime – the end of the day. Below that area the black Heishi is used again to border another polychrome toned checkerboard.

What an amazing creation this is. Once again Russell has revitalized the old feel of the San Ildefonso water jar at its best.

9” high by 9” wide

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