In expanding our Americana Series, we looked to Southwest Pueblo Native cultures. The AMZ 100 has taken its inspiration from the pottery of the Zia pueblo of New Mexico, recognized for their superb achievements in pottery making.
Famous for their large storage jars and huge dough bowls, Zia pottery is distinct from its neighboring pueblos because it is made with clay that fires to a rich red tone and comes in a variety of styles including polychrome on a white slip and polychrome on a orange slip. The sunburst finish of the AMZ 100 seeks to replicate the coloring of this pottery.
The maple fret markers of the AMZ 100 set against an ebony fret board depict a rising or setting sun based on the Zia rayed Sun symbol which has four arms – each of which has four parts. ‘Four’ is an auspicious or sacred number for the Zia: the four points of the compass, the four periods of each day, four seasons of the year, four stages of life, and the four sacred obligations for one’s physical, mental, spiritual and social health.
The Zia also believe that in the great brotherhood of all things, man has four sacred obligations: he must develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of his people. Both the Zia Pueblo flag and the New Mexico State Flag feature the Zia sun symbol.
The sound hole of the AMZ 100 was inspired by a common wave motif found on Zia water jars. Water jars or “Ollas” are defined as “… relatively large vessels used for collecting, carrying and storing water”.
Following are several pieces of pre 1900 Zia pottery that show just a few of the great number of traditional motifs utilized in this stunning historical art form.
The mother-of-pearl and rosewood sound hole and the mother-of-pearl fretboard inlay on the AMM 100 is inspired by the remarkable pottery of the Mimbres pueblo.
The Mimbres culture consisted of several hundred small villages in souther New Mexico, each with less than 200 inhabitants, existing between approximately A.D. 100 and A.D. 1150. Their valley supported a rich diversity of wildlife, and the people lead a peaceful existence, relying on gathering, hunting, and some limited farming.
The Mimbreños began making pottery circa A.D. 200. Done primarily in black on a more-or-less white ground, the Mimbres images are noteworthy for their spontaneity and individuality. No other group of Southwestern peoples decorated ceramic vessels in a similar manner. While many Mimbres bowls feature geometric patterns—the common regional mode of embellishment—the figurative and narrative imagery is unique to the peoples of the Mimbres Valley. The bowls have largely been discovered in subfloor burials, customarily only one to a burial, where they were placed over the face of the deceased. Many are pierced, or “killed,” and the significance of such kill-holes is unclear. Explanations for them range from rendering the bowls functionally useless to allowing their spirit, or that of the deceased, to escape.
The soundhole of the AMM 100 faithfully mirrors the lip of the Mimbres bowl below.
In Mimbres culture the moon was considered to be a rabbit which was regularly devoured by an eagle,with the degree of consumption changing according to lunar phase. Rabbits (actually hares) were an integral part of Mimbres life used for food and skins and were frequently celebrated in their pottery. The inspiration for the Marker at the top of the AMM 100 fretboard was inspired by the image on this bowl which pairs the rabbit with a crescent moon.
So much pottery was found in burial pits and the quality of these pieces is so high that many believe it was created solely for mortuary use and that the image on the bowl has some specific ceremonial meaning. Below are some actual pictures and graphic images found on these extraordinary vessels.