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Friday Feature: What Love Can Do

Olivia Martinez Large Wedding Vase

Our world has become so big and complex and overfilled with things that isolation comes easily now. Oh, not genuine isolation; it’s extremely difficult, actually, to find anything approaching genuine solitude anywhere anymore.

But isolation of the spirit is something else entirely.

It’s easy to feel alone, even in the presence of multitudes. And it’s similarly easy to forget that we actually do nothing, not even simply be, entirely on our own: There is always the involvement of others, even if the connection is sometimes attenuated.

It’s as true of us as it is of the world in which we live — indeed, we would not live at all were it not for the fact that sky and soil work together in concert, with some help the plant spirits and the lifeblood the waters provide. Animals, trees, clouds, stones, all combine their specific powers and attributes to contribute to what science calls our ecosystem, our habitat, that which supports and sustains our existence, and their own as well.

We romanticize notions of wilderness in ways that fail, quite literally, to see the forest for the trees — or the earth for its rocks and sand. We tend to think of solitude as aloneness in a pure and meditative way, while isolation carries the negative connotations of exile and abandonment. But the fact of the matter is that in both instances, it’s a matter of kind and degree, not a simple binary on/off switch.

Our peoples have always known the power of community; indeed, it’s the reason we have survived in the face of organized campaigns of genocide. We also know the power of uniting with spirits of other sorts. of working with the land instead of against it, of honoring the waters and the rain, the mountains and the soil, the plants and the animals. They are all important connections, essential to survival on an individual and a collective basis.

But sometimes, it all comes down to to clan, to family, and even more than that, to one other person with whom to share one’s life.

One of the beautifully symbolic ways in which Pueblo tradition honors marriage is with the wedding vase. Pueblo cultures are not the only indigenous traditions to incorporate such symbolic objects into the wedding and marriage rites; many other Native peoples across Turtle Island recognize the use of a vase or vessel with twinned spouts to represent the union of two spirits in love and matrimony. But here at Taos Pueblo, wedding vases take on a whole other dimension, molded as they are from the lands own micaceous clay: simple, spare, almost utilitarian in their lack of extraneous adornment, and yet infused with the spirit of love bound together, and of the water that is the source of life and breath for all beings in this place.

Today, we have two new iterations of the Taos Pueblo wedding vase, one large and one slightly smaller, from an extended member of Wings’s family. They are by Olivia Martinez, whose daughter is his second cousin. We have long carried Olivia’s miniatures in our inventory, and occasionally a larger work, as well, but these works brand new and brilliant. Each is stunning, with its own distinctive spirit and identity, but the one shown above is far and away my favorite among those I have seen her create over the years. From its description in the Other Artists:  Pottery gallery here on the site:

Water is life, and breath, and love. Olivia Martinez (Taos Pueblo) honors them all with this traditional wedding vase. Made of hand-coiled local micaceous clay, it arises out of a large round bowl nearly spherical in shape, with a gracefully angled ridge around its widest point that gives the impression of a lid. From the bowl emerge twin spouts, each flowing upward into a narrow inner lip that arcs over the top, entwined in a tall braid to represent the union of spirits in marriage. The entire vase stands 14.5″ high; it measures 9″ across the spouts at the widest point; and the bowl is 7″ across at its widest point (dimensions approximate).

Micaceous clay
$775 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Size, weight, and fragility require special handling; extra shipping charges apply


The second one is a bit smaller, shorter and relatively broad, but with the same beautiful braided handle. From its description in the same gallery:

Olivia Martinez Small Wedding Vase

Olivia Martinez (Taos Pueblo) infuses this traditional micaceous wedding vase with motifs of unity and love. The vase is made in the old way, hand-coiled, lightly polished, and fired to a subtle sheen. The bowl is slightly sculpted, a barely-definable ridge accenting its widest point; each spout emerges gracefully from the bowl, one angled upward at either side, each with a flowing outer lip and an inner lip that extends upward into a braided handle, symbolizing spirits united and intertwined. The entire vase stands 9.5″ high; it measures 7-3/8″ across the spouts at the widest point; and the bowl is 5″ across at its widest point (dimensions approximate).

Micaceous clay
$575 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Size, weight, and fragility require special handling; extra shipping charges apply

I love the way she intertwines two smaller handles, each arising from its respective mouth, into one, a handle twice as wide and twice as strong and twice as solid and substantial. It’s a perfect metaphor for the best of what love can do — any kind of love, romantic or otherwise — as it pulls people from isolation into partnership, turning that which is alone and perhaps lonely into a community of at least two, perhaps more. The fact that it is part of a vessel used to deliver water, that which is itself life and breath, love and renewal, to those who thirst — for love, for companionship, for family, for community — only makes its symbolism all the stronger.

It is possible to be free in solitude, but not in isolation. We need each other, and the earth, and the earth needs us. And this bit of earth — mixed with water, exposed to the air, tempered by fire — is a reminder that we are not alone.

~ Aji










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