Maria Poveka Martinez (1887-1980)
When most anyone first inquiries about Pueblo Indian Pottery, the name most often mentioned is "Maria." Maria and her husband Julian in 1918 "re-rediscovered" the process of producing the highly polished black pottery as a collectible art form of the San Ildefonso Indians. Over the next 60 years until her death in 1980 at the age of zz, her methods and her art were passed on both to their family members and to friends in other Pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley. Today there are tens of Indian pottery artists who are being collected for their fine pieces of art by collectors, corporations, and museums around the world.
Throughout the years of her life, Maria collaborated: with her husband, Julian; with her son, Papovi Da; with her daughter-in-law, Santana; and with her grandson, Tony Da; in producing the finest pieces of collectible pottery ever seen. When Maria worked alone, her works were highly polished pieces which appeared either as a shiny gun-metal black or a brilliant silver sheen, depending on how you looked at them. They were free of all polishing marks, a remarkable feat considering that she always did the polishing by hand with polishing stones.
Maria's works that contained the black-on-black matte designs--the feather design being the most popular--were produced in collaboration with Julian (d.1943), Santana, or other members of her family. Those pieces are much more common because collectors were pleased with that additional artistry.
Today, Maria's pottery is a highly prized collectible. One can still find pieces for sale, but the prices will fall in the range of a few to many thousands of dollars, depending upon the size, the quality, the design, and the signature.
There are many books written about Maria; one of the most frequently cited is: Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso, by Alice Marriott, University of Oklahoma Press (1948).
Back to Maria's work
Tony Da (b.1940, deceased)
Tony Da was the grandson of Maria Martinez and the son of Papovi Da (1921-1971). In his early years he worked as a painter of Pueblo Indian life and events. In 1967, working under the encouragement of his grandmother, he tried his hands at black pottery. While he started with traditional plates and bowls, he also ventured into other three-dimensional creative methods and forms. His first exhibition was the Arts and Crafts Fair held in Old Town Albuquerque, where he co-exhibited with Maria. The Fair Judges loved his works and awarded him Blue Ribbons for several of his pieces. It was at this show that Tony introduced his three-dimensional black bear with the life-line. He later extended this new sculpturing to his famous turquoise-decorated and sienna-color bowls, plates, bears, and other figures.
Of Tony Da and another famous artist, Joseph Stacey in the May 1974 issue of Arizona Highways wrote "In our generation Tony Da and Joseph Lonewolf are the precursors of a new wave of humans who beat the odds in achieving greatness with nothing more than their individual humanism and the basic natural elements of clay, water and fire."
Unfortunately, Tony Da was killed in a motorcycle accident in 19xy. As
a consequence, his exquisite sculpture pottery are few in number and highly
sought by collectors. Only occassionally does one find a piece in a Santa
Fe art shop or elsewhere.
Back to Tony Da's work
Joseph Lonewolf (1929- )
Before becoming a renowned pottery sculptor, Joseph Lonewolf worked in Colorado as a precision machinist. It was in that trade that he learned that various chemicals in natural Colorado clays produced different colors when imbedded in metals and then heated or fired. This knowledge and technique was the basis for his distinctive entry into the art of incising and coloring of clay pottery.
Joseph is the son of Camilio Sunflower Tafoya and the brother of Grace Medicine Flower; both his father and sister were well-established Pueblo pottery artists when he began his work in the early 1970s at age 42. Joseph's very early work was created when he returned to the Santa Clara Pueblo from Colorado for visits with his family; this was his experimental phase. It was during this phase of his career that he created two Eternity Bowls, one in black with sienna and one totally in sienna.
His next phase of artistic design was the creation of intricately incised Mimbres designs in miniature pieces of sienna pottery. This work led to his utilization of the effect of chemical treatments to the clay when it was fired. The result was the production of miniatures with multi-color designs, a style which he is still known for today in his current work. Although many Pueblo artists have tried, none has matched the artistry, precision, or color perfection of Joseph Lonewolf.
Refer to the May 1974 issue of Arizona Highways for pictures of his early art work.
Back to Joseph Lonewolf's work
Grace Medicine Flower (1938- )
Grace Medicine Flower is a living artist from the Santa Clara Pueblo. She learned her basic pottery technique from her father, Camilio Sunflower Tafoya while she was still a young woman. Grace has continued to produce exquisite incised miniatures of bowls, vases, and wedding vases for over 30 years. Currently she exhibits in the finest art galleries in Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, and other major art cities.
Grace's contributions to the art of Pueblo pottery have been the artistic precision of her traditional designs depicting the culture and symbolism of all Indians of the Southwest. She started producing her intricate designs on black-fired pottery, but she really achieved her finest when she switched to the sienna-colored miniatures.
To Grace Medicine Flower's work
Art and Martha Cody were a newly-married couple when they introduced their incised miniatures to the world of collectors. Art Cody was a Kiowa Indian from Oklahoma and moved to the Santa Clara Pueblo two years after marrying Martha Suazo in 1969. Almost immediately they captured first prizes and collectors with their innovative and artistic pottery.
With their early works, they signed their pottery as "Haungoah;"
but later they changed the spelling to "Haungooah."
Haungooah was the name of Art's grandfather Silverhorn, a U.S. Army scout in the 19th century.
The pottery of Art and Martha lasted only a few years. Martha died of an illness while still very young. Art continued working from his Santa Clara home; but he was killed in an accident only a few years after Martha's death. Their fine pieces of incised pottery can still be found in some Indian shops.
To Haungoah work
Virginia Ebelacker is a Santa Clara potter, whose works are rarely seen any more. She had exhibited in the Santa Fe Indian Market regularly for several years, but works of her sons (Richard and James) are still being displayed. Virginia was noted for her very large highly polished black and sienna storage jars and wedding vases. Some pieces were 16" in diameter or more. She often received Blue Ribbons or Best of Show from the SWAIA Judges.
To Virginia Ebelacker's Work
Stella Shutiva (deceased)
Stella Shutiva popularized the so-called "fingernail" physical feature to the white clay pottery of the Acoma Pueblo in the early 1970s. She became famous for her delicate wedding vases, seed jars, and bowls. Occasionally she added a brownish slip design to the handles of her wedding vases and to other pieces.
Stella encouraged her children to pick up her craft. Her daughter Jackie now produces pottery similar in style to her mother's. Her son-in-law, Wilfred Garcia, produces superbly polished white clay seed jars and bowls with three-dimensional reliefs of turtles, lizards, and other animals.
Back to Stella Shutiva's work
Helen Cordero (1915-1994)
The originator of the contemporary "Storyteller" figures was Helen Cordero of Cochiti Pueblo. Helen was a beautiful woman who cherished the role of storytellers in preserving the history of the Pueblo Indians. While her peers among Cochiti women were making traditional gray clay bowls, Helen was sculpting figures of seated storytellers with little children perched on legs, arms, shoulders, and back--all listening to the tales of the grandfather or grandmother.
Many Pueblo potters today produce Storytellers; but none match the quality, feeling, and naturalness of Helen Cordero's; one can almost hear the words coming out of the mouths of her Storytellers as the children hang on and listen attentively.
Back to Helen Cordero's work
Fannie Nampeyo (1900-1987)
Fannie Nampeyo was the daughter of the "Nampeyo" of the Hopi Pueblo in Arizona. Nampeyo (1860-1930) is credited with creating the soft sun-tone orange firing process for her pottery. This firing process requires great care in managing the oxidation of the slip-designed clay. Perfection in firing is achieved when the finished piece is a uniform orangish tone.
Fannie expanded on the work of her mother, making collector quality pottery that she exhibited and sold at many Indian Art Shows throughout the Southwest. Her daughters and granddaughters have also pursued the Nampeyo style, as well as have other descendants of Nampeyo.
One may learn much about the Nampeyos by reading Barbara Kramer's masterpiece: Nampeyo and Her Pottery, University of New Mexico Press (1996).
To Fannie Nampeyo's work
Joy Navasie "Frog Woman"
For sheer beauty of slip designs and uniformness of fired "white" pottery, none compares to Joy Navasie's. Joy signs her pottery with a frog symbol and has become known as "Frog Woman."
To Frog Woman's work
Margaret & Luther
One of the most productive and fantastic pair of potters was the sister and brother team of Margaret and Luther Gutierrez, children of famed Santa Clara potters Lela and Van. Lela and Van created the "polychrome" slip coloration for their pottery, a distinctive variation from the traditional black pottery of Santa Clara. Only a few pieces of the works by Lela and Van remain in existence.
Margaret & Luther achieved great recognition in the 1960s and 1970s for their polychrome creations of wedding vases, ollas, storage jars, owls, turtles, and a collection of animal figures. These works of art ranged in size from 1" in diameter to 12" tall. The polychrome slip designs were a pleasant cross between realism and imagination, between traditional and caricature.
Luther died in 19xx, which left Margaret (b.1936) without her expert slip artist for sometime. One of the lasting consequences of this event was that Margaret switched from making her larger pieces to primarily smaller pieces to which she herself could apply the polychrome slip designs. Margaret still exhibits her animal figures at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
To Margaret & Luther's work
For additional information on famous Pueblo Indian potters, see:
Susan Peterson, Pottery by American Indian Womem, The National Museum of Women in the Art, Washington, DC, Abbeville Press, New York, 1997.