The Storyteller on my Desk
In 1964 Cochiti artist Helen Cordero took some clay and fashioned the figure of a grandfather with five children in lap. His mouth was open, and the children were listening eagerly to the stories he told. Later she said her own grandfather was the model for that Storyteller.
Cordero’s ceramic figures gained immediate success. That first year they won prizes at the New Mexico State Fair and the next year in the Santa Fe Indian Market. As interest grew, other potters began producing a wide array of figures. They fashioned manger scenes, corn huskers, drummers and even animal storytellers.
The photo above is a Storyteller I purchased from potter Carol Suina at Cochiti in the early 1990’s. He sits on my desk beside my computer, my fiction mascot.
Grandpa Storyteller’s Roles
Grandpa Storyteller, as I call this little figure, plays three important roles in my writing.
- He keeps me connected to my grandfather Jerry, the first storyteller I knew and reminds me of all the other storytellers that have gone before me.
- He helps me remember where my stories come from. Cochiti potters use white clay they find near their village. I use memories of places where I’ve felt at home.
- He challenges me with all the stories left to tell. The little figure keeps me from getting too attached to a single story.
My First Story Child Leaves Home
Today I send my first Story Child out into the world. She takes with her the story of a little copper box and the people searching for it. How will she fare? I hope many people enjoy her story because I think it’s the best story I’ve told so far. But deep down, I’m not too attached to her success. You see, like Grandpa Storyteller, I have lots more Story Children in my arms.
The Copper Box