Wood, Cloth­ing and Con­di­tion

Native American Art - - NEWS -

His­toric Hopi katsina dolls will al­most al­ways be made out of cot­ton­wood root, which is a very light­weight wood. Oc­ca­sion­ally ju­niper was used, which is a dense wood, but its use is mainly a rare ex­cep­tion. Wood with cracks, as if dried, split and then painted over, can be a warn­ing sign if the doll is sup­posed to be vin­tage, as the wood used his­tor­i­cally did not have cracks. Ears, noses, mouth­parts and eyes are usu­ally carved in sep­a­rate pieces and then put into the katsina with a wooden peg. Close ex­am­i­na­tion of where th­ese in­sert may re­veal white pegs, which means the ap­pendage may have been re­paired or re­placed.

Black­light ex­am­i­na­tion will of­ten re­veal flu­o­res­cent ar­eas, which in­di­cate a newer source of paint, usu­ally over­paint. Of­ten the nose, ears or bug eyes will have chips or scrapes, as they protrude and are sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age. Feet and arms are of­ten bro­ken and reglued. This kind of wear shouldn’t de­ter you from col­lect­ing a katsina doll, in my opin­ion, as it sim­ply con­firms what is ex­pected in a vin­tage doll.

Cloth­ing adorn­ment on Hopi dolls is un­com­mon, al­though it does oc­cur. How­ever, cloth­ing is char­ac­ter­is­tic of Zuni dolls. Early cloth­ing can be hand spun cot­ton, cal­ico cloth or Bayeta trade cloth. Zuni dolls will have ar­tic­u­lated arms us­ing met­al­headed nails. Early dolls may have nails with square heads. Th­ese last two char­ac­ter­is­tics of ar­tic­u­la­tion and cloth­ing are typ­i­cal Zuni at­tributes.

Wilson Tawaquaptewa (Hopi, 1871-1960), por­tray­ing a wolf or coy­ote, ca.1930.

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