Thursday, July 4, 2013

Micaceous Clay with Dawning Pollen Shorty

Today we met Taos Pueblo sculptor Dawning Pollen Shorty.  She had a fascinating upbringing with her mother being half Taos Pueblo Native America and half Lakota; and her father being Navajo. Her mother went to Julliard and both parents were very involved with the theater community.  When she and her two siblings were growing up her parents moved back to the Taos Pueblo so that they could have an upbringing inspired by their ancestors and Native Pueblo traditions.  They didn't have electricity and instead of T.V. growing up the kids would entertain each other by creating theatrical performances that sometimes incorporated a trapeze her parents had installed in the Pueblo.  Pollen's father was a sculptor, and she remembers how excited the family would get when her father would sell a sculpture and they would venture into the town of Santa Fe to eat in the restaurants and swim in the hotel pool. Her mother, Bernadette Track, was also a sculptor and created the utilitarian cooking vessel you see below.  The slab formed figure adorned with beads is a piece of Dawning Pollen's.

As soon as I thought her family story couldn't get more interesting, she informed us that her grandfather, who was a "code talker."  Code talkers were warriors familiar with Navajo language that transmitted secret communications during WWII that were undecipherable.  Pollen's grandmother, Jeri Track, posed for countless paintings created by artist R.C. Gorman.

The clay that is indigenous to the Taos Pueblo region is infused with sparkling Mica flecks; which is where the term micaceous clay is derived.  It is hard to see in the pictures, but it has a enchanting shimmering quality to it.  After Pollen's storytelling and clay demonstrations, we all got to experiment with making our own creations.  

On the left is the micaceous clay as it comes out of the ground.  It has to have water added to it and then be sifted through a screen to make the clay malleable.  On the right is a large piece of mica.

We learned to make tiny animal fetishes, which I think will translate well into elementary art lessons.  We also learned a pinch pot/coil combined method typical to the Pueblo pottery style (like used in the vessel pictured at top).  There was also plenty of time for us to come up with our own designs and techniques.  Since I only had one ceramic class in high school, this was a much needed and much appreciated learning experience.

Collection of creations made by all of the workshop participants
Some of my creations from today
Pollen demonstrating how to score and slip each pinch pot piece before placing back together to create a singular pot

Me practicing hollowing out a half sphere of clay to create a vessel
Pollen helping me create a slab to be the body of my figure
Monday we are meeting Pollen up at the Taos Pueblo, where she resides, to fire our clay creations an above ground cedar wood fire-pit.

1 comment:

  1. Just came across your blog when I searched for Pollen after reading about her on the SchoolArts blog. Thanks for sharing your experience and more photos!