On A Good Path:
Richard Zane Smith
By Rebekah Powers | November 2023
A member of the Wyandot tribe of Oklahoma, Richard Zane Smith’s name is “Sqhahiyo” in their language or “On A Good Path”, an apt name for a leader, teacher and artist whose dream is to see all the indigenous art forms restored, to connect people with their ancestors, with nature and with the land, something Smith refers to as “rootedness: the power of peace”.
Smith is a world class potter who teaches that pottery was never made while there were threats of war and bloodshed. Ancient pottery sherds spoke to him of the kind of peace and calm required to make unwavering parallel lines, to notch the rims with careful repeating perforations, and the available focus and time it takes to make a vessel that will feed generations. Anasazi pottery inspired Smith to tether his modern mind and heart to the spirit of the ancients who animate his work, raising the vibration into a completely new expression of what a vessel can be.
Before there was pottery, there were baskets. And the earliest vitrified clay vessels may have been made by pressing clay into a basket to cook meat over a fire, leaving clay sherds with the imprint of weaving on the outside. This was the bridge from basketry to pottery making that would call Smith to walk between worlds.
The prehistoric technique using coils on natural clay has been taken to the extreme by Smith whose very tiny coils defy expectation and create large clay vessels that resemble fine baskets from a distance, fooling the eye. Looking closer, the corrugated surfaces and thin walls combine to create an unparalleled modern relevance, bringing the 15th century to life in our modern age.
Chimayo Trading is offering 2 stunning pieces created in 2002 by Richard Zane Smith that exemplify his talent and raise the standard for ceramic art across the board. One melds the worlds of baskets and pottery in a daring way, blurring the lines between the two. The rim is perforated and delicately saddle stitched with leather, a wooden handle is secured on either side and coils of clay are woven like a basket, creating a completely unique vessel. The other jar is like a relief sculpture in motion, the surface of the piece undulating in a fine linear leaf design of green complimented by the natural red clay vine that undulates around the jar, accentuated by the simplicity of the high neck and a single etched dragonfly.
These 2 jars testify to Smith’s belief in “rootedness and the power of peace”, which he must certainly have found in order to create such visionary work. Stop in Chimayo Trading to see what can happen when the artist is “On A Good Path”, Sqhahiyo.
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