Miniature grandmother storyteller with 13 children
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Teresa Wildflower, Non-Pueblo, Miniature grandmother storyteller with 13 children
Artist: Teresa Wildflower & 2017 Miniatures
Pueblo: Non-Pueblo
Dimensions: 1 in H by 3/4 in Dia
Item Number: lhmmm6792
Price: $ 300
Description: Miniature grandmother storyteller with 13 children
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Hallmark

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Teresa Wildflower

Polychrome miniature lidded jar by Teresa Wildflower, Chemehuevi

Teresa Wildflower is a member of the Chemehuevi tribe, the southernmost grouping of the Southern Paiutes (the Southern Paiutes traditionally lived in the Colorado River basin and the Mohave Desert in northern Arizona and southeastern California, southern Nevada and southern Utah). She was born in 1935 and became probably the most recognized of Chemehuevi potters.

She most likely grew up on the Colorado River Indian Reservation near Parker, AZ. In those days Federal authorities were actively recruiting Native Americans from high desert tribes to migrate to other reservations and The Colorado River Reservations saw a number of incoming Hopi and Navajo families. Judging from the shapes she made, the kinds of designs she painted and the quality of her work, it's likely she learned to make pottery from one of her Hopi neighbors. There was a bit of a renaissance in Chemehuevi traditional arts beginning in the 1990's with the advent of tribal casinos but Teresa was well established long before that: we found records of a two-week show of her work at Andrews Pueblo Pottery in Albuquerque in the summer of 1982.

Teresa's specialty was miniatures and she was prolific in making them. Because the Chemehuevi pottery tradition was almost wiped out a century before (and the examples available in museum collections look very Hohokam-influenced), it's hard to see anything in her pottery that makes it specifically Chemehuevi. However, her work is light-hearted and reflects a way of looking at nature that is simple, direct and exquisitely to the point. Her pieces are very well made and meticulously painted. Her subject matter is all over the place, from penguins to tropical birds to frogs, lizards, bears and coyotes. Her creations are exacting, built to a scale where 1" is equal to 1'. It's easy enough to confuse her work with Hopi, Zuni or Cochiti pieces as she created with styles and shapes and painted designs from all across the Southwest Native American pottery world.

Teresa isn't producing her pottery any more but she did teach her daughter, Niadi, her methods and processes. Niadi produced similarly beautiful pottery for a few years but she hasn't made any in years now either.

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Pueblos: Cochiti, Jemez, Acoma, Isleta, Santa Clara

Historically, clay figures have been present in the Pueblo pottery tradition for most of the last thousand years. However, figures and effigies were denounced as "works of the devil" by the Spanish missionaries in New Mexico between 1540 and 1820. Before and after that time the art of making figurative sculpture flourished, especially at Cochiti Pueblo. The forms of animals, birds and caricatures of outsiders and, more recently, of images of mothers and grandfathers telling stories and singing to children have multiplied.

The "storyteller" is an important role in the tribe as parents are often too busy working and raising kids to pass on their tribal histories and the Native American people did not have a written language to record anything for posterity. The closest thing they had to a written language was pottery and the designs that decorated that pottery. So the storyteller's role was to preserve and retell and pass down the oral history of his people. In most tribes that role was fulfilled by men.

The first real storyteller figure was created in 1964 by Cochiti Pueblo potter Helen Cordero in memory of her grandfather, Santiago Quintana. She gathered her clay from a secret sacred place on the lands of her pueblo. Then she hand-coiled, hand painted and fired that first storyteller figure the traditional way: in the ground. Helen never used any molds or kilns to make her pottery.

Helen's creation struck a chord throughout all the pueblos as the storyteller is a figure central to all their societies. Most tribes also have the figure of the Singing Maiden in their pantheon and in many cases, the mix of Singing Maiden and Storyteller has blurred some lines in the pottery world. Today, as many as three hundred potters in thirteen pueblos have created storytellers, and their storytellers are not only men and women, but also Santa’s, mudheads, koshares, bears, owls and other animals, often encumbered with children numbering more than one hundred! Each potter has also customized their storyteller figures to more closely reflect the styles and dress of their own tribes, sometimes even of their own clans.

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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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