LENA CHARLIE (1908?–1978)
HOPI BLACK ON YELLOW ASHTRAY circa 1940
This might be an unassuming tourist souvenir piece, but it's by a major potter. It's difficult finding much hard data about Lena Chio Charlie. We know she was probably in Nampeyo's family, and it's written that she painted for Nampeyo late in her life. Even her birth date is questionable. It's been published to be as early as 1888, and the 1908 figure is an expert's best guess based on her marriage dates. One authoritative account places her as Nampeyo's niece, another suggests that she was Nampeyo's granddaughter and still another reference puts her in a different family. One thing we know for sure: she was one of those Hopi potters who signed with a symbol, and her corncob identifies her pieces. No matter where she fits in family trees, you can't deny her skill. Under close examination, this piece attests to her competence. The 1940 date is no more than a best guess. It could have been made ten or more years later.
4-1/2" diameter excluding ashtray indentations x 2-3/8" high
Condition excellent considering its age. Insignificant abrasion on paint and base.