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If you were to ask me to close my eyes and picture my grandmother’s house, the first image to appear behind my eyelids would be “the bowl.” One of my grandfather’s students had brought it to him as a gift. For as long as I can remember, it sat on the stereo cabinet in the living room. (You have to understand, in this era of iPods and MP3 players, that in those days the stereo was a piece of furniture.) Underneath, there was a leather trivet that protected both the finish on the stereo and the bottom of the bowl. Like my grandmother, the bowl was something that was always there. It was like many of the things in her home - always in the same place - constant and comforting.
Even as very small children, my sister and I knew it was not to play with. My grandmother sat with us on the couch and showed us where it had been signed by the artists, Maria and Julian, of the San Ildefonso pueblo in New Mexico. By the time we were old enough to appreciate the work, Maria had become famous and Julian was long dead. My grandmother talked to us about how such a piece of art was made and let us feel inside where the slight ridges of the coil work tickled our fingers. We came to know that a bowl this shape was known as an olla or perhaps a tinaja, and we came to understand that a woman could rise to prominence in her field.
As teenagers, we knew the bowl was very valuable. But as an adult I realized that its real value was not its price. Like so many of the treasures in my grandmother’s home, the value was in the time she spent with us, the skill with which she taught us and the love she poured into us, much as the potter had poured her time and skill and love into a beautiful but functional work of art. My grandmother is physically gone now and the bowl lives with my uncle. But when I visit him and see the bowl, I have only to close my eyes..... and the first image to appear behind my eyelids is my grandmother’s face, as she tells me the story of Maria Martinez, potter of San Ildefonso.
| Date: Sun April 8, 2012
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Registered: December 2008
Location: Conway, AR