First American Art Magazine No. 22, Spring 2019 - Page 59

CHASE KAHWINHUT EARLES above Loren’s Bipod, 2018, incised, shell-tempered, Red River clay, 8½ × 10 in., private collection. opposite Chase Earles with an incised jar. All images courtesy of the artist. There are a couple of different processes to making clay, but I use a dry method. I dry it out, crush it, mix in the temper, reconstitute it, and let it age. Once it’s ready, I hand-build pottery with the coil method—getting it as thin as I can. When it’s dry, I burnish it sometimes three times over to get it really shiny. Then my pieces are pit-fired in an open bonfire. Once it gets to temperature, I put the work directly into the coals, and then place wood up around, letting it go up in flames. We didn’t have modern conveniences, so that’s the way I do it for my [cultural] work. I’m also working to evolve our processes and make more things, but when I’m making very [historic] pottery, I don’t use things like metal buckets or barrels, cages, cans, metal plates, or any of that. It’s just straight into the coals of the fire. Until it gets to the tempera- ture—when it starts glowing, I pull it out and clean it off. Then I engrave designs into the pot that are based on our ancient designs. JME: Who and what are your greatest inspirations when you create? CKE: I guess what is unique to our Caddo identity became important to me because of the way I grew up, seeing how many people appropriate cultural identity. It became extremely important to me to amplify, or even just get out there into the public what is specifically unique to the Caddo culture identity, so that it is not muddied up. I feel like it’s not just my purpose to create pottery but to educate as many people as I can. As a Native American in this time—in 2019—what is it that we are experiencing? I did a piece recently called Reuniting Bonds, which is about me drawing my family back to our tribe and reconnecting. We are a river tribe—not every tribe can say they lived directly off the river. Our houses were very unique beehive grass houses, and so just showing these things … I look at it and think, Man, what if a little Caddo boy saw that artwork and it made a difference to him … made him understand what it meant to be Caddo? JME: The forms of your pottery range from vessels that resemble conventional jars to alligator gars to neon-glazed bottles. What is your process for choosing the shapes and styles your creations take? SPRING 2019 | 57