Ethel Muchvo (born in the 1880's, died 1970) was a Hopi potter from the First Mesa in Arizona. She made friends with a white woman. Maud Melville of Worcester, Massachusetts, who visited the First Mesa area along with her family in 1927. Ethel and Maud wrote to each other for 10 years; the letters and the friendship are detailed in the book "Hopi Summer--Letters From Ethel to Maud," written by Carolyn O'Bagy Davis and published in 2007. We show the cover of the book, along with a copy of a letter written by Ethel to Maud in 1931, announcing the birth of her daughter, Vivian. Vivian was the only one of Ethel's twelve children to survive.
Vivian Muchvo grew up...and created this pottery bowl.
There is not a lot of information on the life and times of Vivian Muchvo as an adult. The photo we've included is of Vivian (on the left) visiting with another Hopi woman; it was taken at a presentation that author Carolyn Davis gave at a Hopi village in 2011 when Vivian was 79 years old. We do know that Ethel taught her daughter to make pottery before she was 6 years old, as Ethel stopped making pottery then because she became blind from an eye infection.
This polychrome bowl was hand coiled and pit fired and hand painted by Vivian with red and black mineral dyes. The blush color comes from the iron in the clay and the technique used to fire it. The traditional Hopi designs are the same on each side, each grouping separated by a set of three vertical black lines. It is signed by Vivian in her handwriting "Vivian Muchvo" and, very very faintly beneath that is writing that we believe reads "Polacca ...196-" Polacca is the town directly below the First Mesa on the Hopi Reservation. It's important to note that the Muchvo name is frequently misspelled as Muchuo, even in prominent reference sources.
The bowl measures 3 1/2 inches high and 3 1/4 inches across the top. It weighs 3/4 pound and is in excellent condition. There are no cracks, chips or other damage and the painted designs are still crisp and clear. We're including the copy of the book "Hopi Summer'" with the purchase of the bowl--it's a terrific read and the bowl is a rare and beautiful find.
NOTE: In the book "Hopi Summer,' the author mentions musicologist Natalie Curtis, who was recording Native American music in the 1930's. We have a copy of the Curtis book titled "The Indians' Book" available. Here is the link: