Seed Jar 1982

Clay seed jar features abstracted flower shapes and a traditional lightning bolt design.

Marie Zieu Chino, Seed Jar, 1982; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Marie Zieu Chino’s Seed Jar features abstracted flower shapes and a traditional lightning bolt design commonly associated with the mythical Avanyu, or water serpent. The lightning bolt also symbolizes the importance of water to the Acoma Pueblo’s agricultural society.

Seed jars originally served to protect seeds from pests and extreme temperature fluctuations, hence the small opening. The jar was broken to extract the seeds when they were needed. By the time Chino was creating her pottery, such previously utilitarian forms were made for sale as decorative objects.

Chino, like fellow artist Lucy M. Lewis, probably learned to make pottery from a female relative. To begin the traditional, labor-intensive process, Chino would gather clay from a special location within the Pueblo. She built her pots by hand using thick coils of clay, then carefully smoothing and burnishing the surface. To achieve the distinctive bright, white surface she applied a slip of Kaolin, a naturally occurring chalky material. The artist used delicate yucca fiber brushes to designs on the vessel surface before firing the piece in an outdoor pit using cow chips for fuel.

National Museum of Women in the Arts