Native American Culture/Owl pottery figure


Back view
Back view  
Front view
Front view  
QUESTION: I recently picked this figure up while on vacation in Florida of all places.  The seller claimed it was from Santa Clara Pueblo, but there are no markings on the piece that indicate that to me.  Can you help identify this?

ANSWER: Well, reduction/blackware firing is indeed done at Santa Clara and there are potters there that do figures including owls, but the design and sgraffitto decoration alone are not enough to substantiate their claim of origin. Is there no signature mark on the bottom, between the feet? If you can find a signature, upload the image as a follow-up question. While this owl doesn't suggest a Santa Clara Origin to me, it may be from a potter we've not done business with. Hope this helps.

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Side view
Side view  

Bottom view
Bottom view  
QUESTION: I'm attaching a side view and a bottom view. The bottom doesn't show any markings I can discern, and neither does the side. The two white stickers were put there by the seller.  One identifies the piece as a "head rest" and the other has a 1980 date and a price of $1475.  While the black on black looks kind of like Santa Clara to my untrained eye the actual markings on the face are not incised and look a little like San Ildefonso, without the polished finish.  I'm hoping that the rather crude image indicates that this isn't a contemporary Pueblo piece, but rather something older.

Both Pueblos use both techniques and lately, so do Jemez and Cohiti potters as well -- it is just very unusual for a Pueblo pottery figure of that kind of cost level to have no identifying signature at all. Pottery following Maria Martinez and others (since the 1920s), who had success, has always been signed or marked. One possibility to consider is that this may be a Mexican piece. The Casas Grandes people also do reduction fired blackware, and they also do figures. One resource you might try is the School of American Research in Santa Fe, NM, who have completed quite a bit of definitive research on potters, Pueblo design decoration and finish. Hope this helps.

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Richard Sutton


As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.


My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, and our Ebay Store.

UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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