FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Hopi carver and elementary school teacher Bryant Mavasta Honyouti, from Hotevilla, was the featured artist at the 38th annual Pueblo Grande Museum Indian Market in mid-December in Phoenix, Arizona.
The featured piece was titled "The Soyoko Series #4 - The Offerings." According to the press release from the Pueblo Grande Museum, Soyoko represents the order of discipline. When she appears, it's a harsh reminder for all to conduct themselves respectfully in all aspects of daily life. Families make offerings of food, game, and prayers to the group so they can continue the cycle of renewing life. The view that Honyouti carved is from the inside of a home, as the visitors arrive to receive their offerings.
Honyouti said the featured piece was a relief carving, which means it was carved out a flat piece of Cottonwood root where just the surface is carved off.
In the carving, Honyouti tried to capture the atmosphere of the visit, the feeling of fear and the kids crying. He feels that emotion is there when someone sees the carving even when they have not experienced the ceremony directly.
"Some of the responses that I get when people see the work is 'Whoa, I know what that feels like ... it brings back memories and evokes emotions,'" Honyouti said. "Even if they haven't experienced it before they get an idea of what it is like."
He tried to make the inside of the home look like a traditional home with the wooden beams, the thatching and the post with the water jug hanging on the wall.
Honyouti said when he first started carving he liked multiple figure carvings. In his own work, he tried to figure out a way to display multiple figures onto one carving. He started by carving the figures back to back to make them three dimensional. While he likes to try and capture a moment in time in a dance, a celebration or a ceremony, he also tries to include as many items, figures, and symbols into a single carving as he can.
"I carve the complete piece of wood all the way around so it's not one-dimensional," Honyouti said. "It's a different portrayal of Kachina figures and images."
He said the carving itself does not take him very long but the detail work on each piece - sanding, wood burning and painting - is what take the longest to complete. On average, he said that it takes four to six weeks to complete a piece.
He also is working on improving perspective in his carvings. At the moment, he is working on a miniature carving that has 16 figures.
"I am always trying to challenge myself to do something a little bit more, to add something to it," Honyouti said, adding that because the Kachinas come in groups to a dance, he wanted to show that in his carvings.
"I wanted to keep them together almost like family," he said.
All of his carvings are made out of Cottonwood root. Honyouti said he usually begins by sketching an image that he puts aside. The feature piece for the Pueblo Grande Museum's Indian Market was sketched five years ago. When he was told he had been selected as a feature artist he realized it was time for that sketch to become reality. In the process of carving, he said some details change as he works with the wood, sometimes the image will change completely from what he had in mind.
"I just let it happen," Honyouti said. "Sometimes an image or some kind of symbol will present itself and I say, 'ok, this will be a good place for it.' If you work with the wood, the wood will work with you. Sometimes those things just happen and everything will fall into place really easily and really well."
Those moments are what make carving exciting for Honyouti.
"You put your feelings and a little bit of prayer and happiness into it and it will react to you in that same way and respond to you," he said. "Those are the moments that are really exciting."
And Honyouti said this is a really exciting time for him with opportunities presenting themselves to him - getting to meet new people and artists who continue to inspire him with their work.
"You just want to challenge yourself to give more and take a step beyond what you are doing now," he said. "I'm really taken it all in and having a lot of fun with it."
Honyouti comes from a family of master carvers. His father has been a full time artist for a long time. His uncles and his grandfather are all artists as well. He grew up watching, learning and understanding what they did and seeing their techniques in carving. He was also influenced by attending different art shows when he was growing up and seeing the many different forms of art like painting, sculpting, pottery or photography. He said all those different art forms give him ideas for his own work, a symbol or an idea that he can include with his own personal flavor.
"I am inspired all the time by a lot of different things in nature, in people," Honyouti said.
Honyouti has taught elementary school for the last 10 years. The kids, their stories and experiences, are also an inspiration for him. He said he enjoys his job as a teacher and that art is a creative outlet for him.
"Sometimes things are so busy at school and work that you need a time to calm down, almost like meditating in way," Honyouti said. "Your nerves and your feelings and stress level mellows out and calms down. So it's a good outlet for me."
His students also are the first ones, and sometimes the only ones, who get to see his finished artwork before it is put on display.
"Those kinds of things I don't really share but I do with my students," Honyouti said. "They get excited and I like to see that excitement in them."
Honyouti said he is grateful for the opportunities that have come his way like being the featured artist at the Pueblo Grande Musem's Indian Market.
"It was a great experience," Honyouti said. "I got to meet new people and reconnect with some familiar collectors and faces. It was overall just a great experience and I felt really fortunate to be a part of it."
More information about Honyouti's artwork is available at http://www.mhonyouti.com/