Several anxious faces peered through the window of the Winter Sun Trading Company long before the doors opened on the Eighth Annual “Preserving a Tradition” show. One gentleman named Patrick had already made his choices earlier in the afternoon, and waited for his chance to beat the rest of the crowd to the bevy of Katsina dolls awaiting their guests.
Finally, Phyllis Hogan had mercy on the growing crowd outside and unlocked her door five minutes early. Winter Sun was quickly filled with Katsina doll enthusiasts eager to view this year’s exciting selection, and to meet the Hopi carvers who created them.
Hogan, owner of the trading company, furnished a delicious spread in honor of the opening that included traditional Hopi food. Somiviki and piki bread, both made of blue corn meal, graced the table along with fresh fruits, traditional tea and other delicious treats. There was the air of a reunion—and for many the event was one—as people shared food and admiration for the carvings that covered the walls of Hogan’s establishment.
Close to 200 Katsina dolls gazed into the crowd from all four directions. Feathers waved gracefully in the breeze—a pair of frog-like characters appeared anxious. Crickets and Mudheads are watched over by a line of mysterious gray spirits who float above the rest. One wears the universe across his face, others appear blind. Some are masked; others wear elaborate crowns of carved owl wings, each feather intricately highlighted with natural pigment.
This is a world where a visitor is truly surrounded in beauty.
Philbert Honanie is talking with one of his admirers. Their heads bent closer together over a doll, their voices low. Honanie, a resident of Hotevilla, is a role model for many of the young Hopi carvers featured in the show. After twelve years of carving, he confesses he is still learning, still perfecting his art. “I now know where my wood comes from,” he announces. “For two years now, I have been picking up wood on the San Juan river.” Gesturing towards three dolls on display near the door, he explained that several of his friends had brought him wood from the Green River in Colorado.
“I have become better educated, and can now include the source of my wood to my buyers. I am able to teach people about the atmosphere of the place where the wood comes from, and why people should respect the river and its gifts.”
“I no longer have to say, ‘I bought this wood.’ I now know its history.”
Ramson Lomatewama of Hotevilla is a quick man with bright, happy eyes.
(Hopi Artists on stairs)