Augustana College printing logo

106. Jar

A glowing orange glass jar by Tony Jojola caught my attention at Augustana College. The luminous jar is heavily decorated with melded pieces of colorful glass. Several types of decoration and texture cover the front and back surfaces: some are web-like while others are bold stripes or multicolored circles. The circular decorations are vibrant shades of blue, cool red and white, contrasting with the bright orange base color. Two solid blue lines surround the rim of the jar, and, on one side, more of these lines are placed in a slanted manner that frames the circular figures. The web-like textures form an attractive background to the solid features on the jar.

Jojola was born in 1958 into the Isleta Pueblo community, New Mexico. In his youth, he was always surrounded by family members making crafts, particularly his grandfather who was both a silversmith and woodcarver ("Tony Jojola" 2008). During college at the Institute of American Indian Arts (hereafter IAIA) in Santa Fe, he fell in love with glass blowing. Once he discovered the medium, he used the "old forms that [his] culture has respected throughout time" to influence most of his glass work ("Tony Jojola" 2003).

After studying at the IAIA, Jojola moved to Maine to continue his glass studies at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Since finishing his formal education and studying with other glass masters, such as Dale Chihuly (working as his studio assistant at Pilchuck Glass Studio, Seattle) and Lino Tagliapietra, Jojola has become a renowned glass artist, exhibiting across North America and Europe. At present, he runs the Taos Glass Workshop, which he founded in northern New Mexico ("Tony Jojola" 2008). Known primarily for his colorful, light-filled glass vessels, he also makes glass jewelry, ornaments and traditional Native American animal figurines, such as bears. Typically, his color schemes consist of a dominant warm or cool base that is contrasted with splashes of colors of the opposite temperature.

To better understand Jojola's glass jar, we can look at Isleta Pueblo pottery and find traditional elements he might have incorporated. The arts have been very important to the Isleta: "Nothing was large, nothing was ambitious, everything was made solely to be eye-catching" (Hayes and Blom 1996:76). Isleta pottery shapes usually have a flat base, expanding out to a wider form in the middle; the clay is then brought back to a more tapered shape, leaving the opening of the pot narrower than the widest point in the piece. As for decoration, "Isleta's pottery was plain red until [some] Laguna people settled there in 1880, introducing a black-and-red painted whiteware. Isleta potters made small bowls in this style" (Trimble 2007:99).

Today, Isleta pottery emphasizes an aesthetically pleasing style. Most traditional Isleta potteries have these characteristics: a matte finish; light, neutral base colors; decoration colors in a variety of earthen hues with a dusty overtone; and bold patterns with strong lines used for geometric and organic designs (such as flowers and animals) (see images Hayes and Blom 1996:77, also Cat. 105). Isleta pottery patterns focus on the use of lines, creating complex and well-organized geometric and symmetrical designs. Usually, complicated linear geometric designs are painted on the inside of the pottery, and a simple organic or abstract form is on the exterior. The Isleta Pueblo people obviously have enjoyed experimenting with different forms, using curving and straight lines to create interesting figures. More common reoccurring design motifs are the lines that border the rim of the jar and the three circles placed together in a diagonal line, usually within a leaf shape outline.

Given the customary expectations for traditional Native American art, it is unusual to think of this gleaming glass jar as a Native American object. Even though Jojola's forms are true to those of his culture, the designs on this jar seem far from traditional until given further consideration. Most decorative features on Isleta pottery are symmetrical, having distinctly segmented geometric shapes that contrast with organic images. My examination of Isleta Pueblo pottery revealed there is almost always some sort of linear element encircling the opening of the pot. Keeping this in mind while looking at the Jojola piece, I found an immediate similarity between traditional Isleta pottery decoration and the two lines that, in a slanted and distorted way, border the rim of the glass jar. The seemingly random lines may be an abstract interpretation of the traditional segmented bold line designs of Isleta pottery. Even the blue web-like textures on the glass jar can be seen as a somewhat traditional element, being a more abstract interpretation of the organic designs. Additionally, the circular figures on Jojola's jar are set up in a diagonal pattern, much like those in traditional Isleta pottery.

Jojola is recognized for finding inspiration in Native American sources ("Tony Jojola" 2009). In this jar he may be honoring the traditional Isleta pottery designs of his childhood and birthright.

-Liz Jensen (Augustana 2011)







Tony Jojola (b. 1958, Isleta, New Mexico), Jar, orange with black, white, red, blue and turquoise, ca. 2007 Blown glas, The Olson-Brandelle North American Indian Art Collection, Augustana College, (76A ISL) 2008.24.3