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Maria Martinez

Native American
(1887–1980)

Bowl
1950

Earthenware
2.25 x 3.25 x 3.25 in.
Museum Permanent Collection
1984.1324

The production process was complex and could require weeks to create. María and Julian’s distinctive style combined a glossy and matte surface. First, they gathered clay and volcanic ash from the land surrounding the pueblo. Mixing these materials together created the basic clay body which was shaped with traditional gourd tools. Once dried, the surface of was highly polished with a river stone. Julian, an accomplished painter and water colorist, would use liquid clay to paint the desired contrasting matte surface design.

Once the object had dried, María and Julian’s firing process determined the coloring of the clay. In Bowl, the black coloring is achieved through a reduction firing process, which reduces the oxygen in the firing pit by smothering the flames with dry horse dung. This causes a chemical reaction by trapping the carbon, which blackens the clay body with the trapped smoke.

After Julian’s death in 1943, María continued to make work with her children and daughter in law. Bowl comes from this later period—this object is on a much smaller scale than the other examples of her work, which produces an intimacy between the object and viewer. In the documentary featuring María Martinez and Nora Eccles Treadwell (later Harrison), filmed by her husband Walter Treadwell in 1952, similar objects can be seen created from start to finish.

Matthew Limb


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