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Friday Feature: Small Works of Earth and Water, Fire and Light

Micaceous Seed Pot Side View

Sometimes the smallest works make the greatest mark.

When it happens, humankind generally remains unaware of the impact; more, we tend take it — whatever “it” is — for granted. It’s as true of the utensils and artifacts of our daily lives as it is of the effects of politics, philosophy, and spiritual tradition upon our communities and cultures.

But fundamentally, everything arises from the same source: from the elements. And while modern science has differentiated those elements with great specificity, there is value even in the more general conception of them as comprising earth, water, fire, and air . . . or, seen another way, light.

On this final Friday of September, as our small world here makes ready for the Pueblo’s traditional public feast, we are reminded of the importance of elemental things, even — perhaps especially — those that com in small and unassuming packages.

We begin with one of the most important forms of traditional clayware, the seed pot. The one shown above is found in our Other Artists:  Pottery gallery, and while not precisely a miniature, it possesses the typically small size of pots in its category. The seed pot is itself responsible for drawing lines upon the land, lines made of life itself: It is used to store seeds throughout the cold months, and when the sun’s fire warms the earth once again, to sow it with those same seeds in quick and convenient rows. This one has long been one of my favorite examples, nearly globe-like in its shape, its slight degrees off round making it perfect for its purpose.

But there are miniatures, too, that see traditional use: sometimes for storage, sometimes for small amounts of water in a ritual setting, sometimes as simple artistry — more functional designs rendered in the diminutive, tiny aesthetic reminders of culture and of the beauty and importance of the old ways.

Some are simple bowls, facsimiles of those used for cooking and serving:

Track Mini Pot Trio 2

Some are more decorative, like those used for serving meals . . . or for serving food to the spirits:

Olivia Martinez Mini Pots 2

And some take the form of those used for storage, or for carrying water:

Leatrice Gomez Mini Pots 2

All are small but powerful versions of their more utilitarian counterparts, and all appear in the relevant entry in the same gallery here on the site.

They serve as a lesson to us, and a reminder, too:  One need not be big or important, a celebrity or in a position of authority, to make one’s mark. That which seems small and unassuming nonetheless draws its own lines upon the line, lines connecting — and connecting to — culture and community and clan. They are elemental, small works of earth and water, fire and light . . . and they are powerful.

~ Aji

 

 

 

 

 

 

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