Wood, Clothing and Condition
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.