JODY  FOLWELL             


Jody Folwell was born and raised in Santa Clara Pueblo. Folwell is often referred to as the matriarch of the avant-garde in Native American pottery. As she has done since childhood, she continues to hand build and hand decorate all her pieces in the traditional ways. But there is very little to be called traditional in what is built and what is decorated.

Each of Folwell’s vessels is unique and different from the next. When you see a number of her pieces side by side, the variances are striking. One piece is perfectly curved and broad. The next is asymmetrical, angular and tall, as if sculpted. One has brightly colored, thick geometric shapes. Another is a lustrous black, polished so well you can see your reflection. The next one has elegant spiral forms as if tooled into supple brown leather. And still another has pastel-colored fish swimming in undefined waters. 

And all this can sometimes be accompanied by political satire or social commentary. Ah yes, the famous social commentary from Jody Folwell. Art is, after all, a form of communication, and Folwell is known for doing just this—occasionally communicating a strong opinion or a biting comment on what she might perceive as a social injustice or a political imperative. She has been doing this for decades and, no doubt, this has contributed greatly to her work being classified as avant-garde—unbound by the status quo, innovative, experimental, immediate, involved, topical, progressive.

Among the array of awards and honors she has received over the years, Folwell was most recently honored in 2013 with a Community Spirit Award from First Peoples Fund, an organization that supports “creative Indigenous artists who share their inspiration, wisdom, knowledge and gifts with their communities.”

Still, she says, though she has lived and breathed pottery every day since childhood, she has never really considered herself an artist. She is as humble as she is talented. She is as unassuming as her work is influential.