Large polychrome olla with roadrunner, rainbow cloud and geometric design 
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Helen Gachupin, Zia, Large polychrome olla with roadrunner, rainbow cloud and geometric design
Artist: Helen Gachupin
Pueblo: Zia
Dimensions: 12 3/4 in H by 15 in Dia
Item Number: tjzal5100
Price: $ 3900
Description: Large polychrome olla with roadrunner, rainbow cloud and geometric design
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Helen Gachupin Zia Pueblo NM

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Helen Gachupin

Zia
Traditional geometric design on a large polychrome storage jar, by Helen Gachupin
 

The daughter of Jose Gachupin and Andrea Toribio Gachupin, Helen Gachupin was born at Zia Pueblo in 1931. Helen most likely grew up watching her famous grandmother, Rosalie Medina Toribio, making pottery but she really learned the basics of the traditional art from her mother. Through her life Helen mostly masde traditional polychrome jars, storage ollas and bowls. Her favorite designs seem to have been roadrunners, yucca plants, rainbows and birds.

Helen and her sister, Gloria Gachupin Chinana, were among the participants in the 1979 "One Space/Three Dimensions" exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum. Some of Helen's pieces can be found in the co9llections at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in Boston, the Maxwell Museum in Albuquerque and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe.

Helen never married before she passed in 1992.


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Zia Pueblo

Zia Reservation view
A typical view on the Zia Reservation

Zia Pueblo is situated in the Jemez Mountains with Jemez Pueblo to the north and Santa Ana Pueblo to the south. Despite its picture postcard setting, Zia's history for the last four hundred years has been difficult.

Antonio de Espejo led a small troop of Spanish explorers up the Jemez River and discovered Zia Pueblo in 1583. Espejo estimated there were about 4,000 inhabitants in a city of house blocks up to three and four stories high with five major plazas and many smaller ones. "The people are clean. The women wear a blanket over their shoulders tied with a sash at their waist - their hair cut in front, and the rest plaited so that it forms two braids, and above a blanket of turkey feathers," is how Espejo's scribe recorded it.

Zia today is a water-poor community of about 800, most of whose residents work away from the pueblo.

The people of Zia participated in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and when Spanish troops returned in 1682 and 1687, the Zias were able to repulse them. When more Spanish troops returned in 1688 they were finally successful in conquering the Zias. The Spanish killed many people, burned the pueblo and took many slaves back to Mexico with them. When Don Diego de Vargas returned to northern Nuevo Mexico in 1692, the Zias sued for peace and accepted the rule of Spain almost immediately. However, the new Spanish government did little to protect the pueblos from the raids of nomadic Ute, Apache, Comanche and Navajo warriors. Zia fortunes slid in many ways and by the 1890's the tribe was down to just 98 members.

Today, the Pueblo of Zia numbers about 800 people, many of whom are active artists producing everything from pottery to jewelry to baskets to paintings, sculptures and wood carvings.

Pottery was a Zia mainstay as for at least two hundred years. The balance of trade was food from Santa Ana, Jemez and San Felipe in return for pottery from Zia. Pottery still remains Zia's largest home-grown cash crop.

Zia pottery is Keresan and, as such, shares design characteristics with other important Keresan pottery, especially Acoma and Laguna ware. They all have their favorite geometric patterns, stylized birds, rainbows and flowers, but each maintains its own individual images and colors.

Where Acoma and Laguna's bird is a parrot, Zia's is a roadrunner. Acoma's black and orange on stark white is contrasted by Zia's dark brown and brownish red on creamy white. Further, Acoma's hard, paper-thin, white clay ollas differ greatly from Zia's sturdy, slightly granular, basalt-tempered red clay jars. Because of their unique local clay and their traditional designs and shapes, Zia pottery is unique and easily distinguished from the pottery of other pueblos.

When New Mexico became a territory (and then a state), some of the symbols involved were sourced from Zia Pueblo. The roadrunner often pictured on Zia pottery became the official New Mexico state bird and the Zia sun symbol (a circle with four parallel lines in four groups pointing in the four directions) became a state symbol depicted in many places, including the state flag.

Zia Pueblo location map


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Pottery Care & Consideration

  • The most obvious tip: Yes, the pots will break if you drop them!
  • Do not expose pottery to water (Inside or outside). Do not wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Dust pottery only with a soft, smooth cloth (no terry cloth or textured fabric). A very soft paintbrush (sable or camel) can be used.
  • Always use two hands to carry your pot: one on top and one on the bottom, or one hand on each side. Be careful with handles, they can be fragile. Do not grip or lift pots by the rim. Take care when wearing jewelry, rings can scratch the finish.
  • Place a piece of felt or cloth between the pot and the shelf to protect the signature.
  • Avoid exposing pottery to extreme temperature changes.

For those who live in "earthquake country" (also good for mischievous pets):

  • Weigh pots down with a small zip lock bag containing sand, glass marbles, rice, etc. Do not fill the pot more than one third full as you want them bottom heavy. Remember to remove the weight before moving.
  • Secure your shelves; make sure they are well attached to the walls. Shelf brackets should be of sufficient length and strength to support the weight of your pottery.
  • Prevent pots from sliding. Consider attaching a small wooden molding to the front of shelves. Line shelves with non-slip material (a thin sheet of rubber foam, Styrofoam sheeting, etc.)
  • If you need assistance with special problems, major cleaning (your grandchild spills ice cream on your pot), restoration or repair (the cat breaks a pot), or replacement (irreparable damage), please feel free to call us.

We hope these ideas help you maintain the beauty and value of your pottery for years of enjoyment.

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