early San Ildefonso
Early San Ildefonso
1900, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico was a small village with only 30
households. Pueblo pottery production had greatly declined in its creation for
utilitarian purposes and in the 1910 census there
were only eight women who were potters by occupation. Around this time,
ethnographers such as Kenneth Chapman and
Edgar Hewitt began to encourage potters
San Ildefonso and other pueblos to revive this dying art form. Those who
were already making pottery were encouraged to examine prehistoric vessels and
revive this imagery. These designs along with imagery form other historic
pottery was used as a foundation for this revival of Pueblo pottery.
1919-1920, Maria Martinez and her husband Julian Martinez discovered/invented the now
classic style of black-on-black pottery. Despite the folk lore that it was a
secretive process, they quickly shared the information about how to make this
style of pottery and it revolutionized the economy and life of the pueblo. It
was an exciting time for the potters. They had an entirely new process for
making pottery, new designs, new information and a newly developing market for
their folk art pottery in places such as Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. It was
in this period of the 1920’s to about 1940 that the potters were unencumbered by
“tradition” and looked beyond the Pueblos for inspiration. The result was
amazing originality in the designs and shapes of their pottery.
In the Pueblos at this time,
women would typically make and polish the pottery,
while the men would paint the designs on the surface. While Maria and Julian
excelled as potters and promoters and eventually became world famous, other potters such as Susana
Aguilar, Ramona Gonzales and Tonita Roybal were all vital to the rapidly
changing pottery movement.
In the 1930’s the pottery of San Ildefonso would change further as a few men married women from other
Pueblos. These women brought a new dimension to the work already being created.
Rose Gonzales (San Juan), Rosalie Aguilar (Picuris) and Juanita
Gonzales (Taos) were among the first potters to begin carving into the clay
to create their designs instead of painting imagery on the surface. They added another dimension to
what could be done with the clay and created a stylistic change which still
reverberates through the pottery market.
While there was vibrancy to this period of
work it did not last long. The Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II
reduced the demand for pottery which had been growing throughout the 1920s.
Many of these remarkable potters and painters passed away by the late 1940's and
many of their original shapes and designs disappeared from memory. It would be the next generation
of potters starting in the 1950’s, and especially
the 1960’s, who would look to Maria Martinez, the one constant for
nearly a century, as the bridge between the first pottery revival and arrival of Pueblo pottery
as a fine art. But for this next generation, the innovation and experimentation of their parents and
grandparents would now be viewed as the traditions of the past.
Please contact us at
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for more information or with any questions.
Included in Show, Alphabetically (click on the name to see their pottery):
Tonita Roybal (1892-1945) & Juan Cruz Roybal (1896-1990)
Juan Cruz and Tonita Roybal working on their pottery. Photo by
T. Harmon Parkhurst, Courtesy Palace
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA),
Tonita Roybal has been called,
"One of the finest potters of the twentieth century". She learned to make
pottery from her mother,
Dominguita Pino Martinez (1860-1948). Her brother, Cresencio
married Anna Montoya (Maria's siste). She was also an aunt to Santana
later married Adam Martinez (Maria's son). Tonita was married twice. Her first
husband was Alfredo Montoya (1890-1913) and then in 1916 she married
Juan Cruz Roybal. Among her descendants are JD Roybal
(painter) and Margaret Lou Roybal-Gutierrez (potter).
Tonita began making
pottery in 1909. Beginning in 1917, Juan began painting some of her pottery
and after 1930 he painted a majority of the pieces. When Tonita made the
pottery and did the painting,
these pieces were signed, "Tonita". When she made the vessel and it
was painted by Juan, then they were signed, "Tonita and Juan". Kenneth Chapman
commented in a letter on the quality, and value of her work at
the time, "Tonita Roybal
does equally fine work, and I may be able to get just what you want from her if
Maria does not get back to work soon. Tonita won first prize for her old
fashioned red San Ildefonso ware, with decorations in black (black-on-red
pottery). Her husband, Juan Cruz runs Julian a close second in decorating
pottery. She put a price of $12.00 each on jars 8" in diameter and got it! It
is hard on some of us poor ethnologists who have been encouraging it, but it has
made a wonderful difference in San Ildefonso life, and we are strong for it".
Tonita's mother was
famous for her "black-on-red" style of pottery, and this was a style which
Tonita quickly mastered. After 1920 and the advent of black-on-black
pottery, Tonita invented the red-on-red style with the white outlines.
Both Tonita and Juan were fascinated by pre-historic pottery. Those
designs and their influences can often be seen in their work. After 1913 she began, "combining
the layout of Nampeyo's Sikyatki revival style with elements from Acoma and
elsewhere". By 1925 Tonita was at the peak of her career. Her early death
in 1945 left only a small amount of creative and innovative work that still inspires
us with it's unique use of varied Native designs from pre-historic to regional in
Susana Martinez Aguilar (1876-1947)
Susana was the wife of Ignacio Aguilar (1872-1945). She
began making pottery in the 1890's and later taught her daughter-in-law
Rosalie Aguilar how to make pottery. She had been making more
traditional utilitarian San Ildefonso pottery, as can be seen in the
photograph to the above right. However, she began making
black-on-black, polychrome and red-on-red style pottery in the 1920's.
In 1925 she began to sign her pottery. Jonathan Batkin wrote of her
pottery, "Susana was a skilled potter whose work has been unfairly
overlooked by many. Her pots are among the most finely made of the
1920's and 1930's.". While she made the vessels and decorated some
of them, most were also painted by her husband and also her son Joe
Photo: Susana Aguilar with
her pottery. The bowls by her feet are a distinctive early style of
white-on-red ware. Photo by T.
Harmon Parkhurst, Courtesy Palace
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 043608.
Rosalie Simbola Aguilar (1898-1946) &
Joe Aguilar (1898-1965)
Photo: Rosalie Aguilar with carved and
pottery. Photo by T. Harmon
Parkhurst, Courtesy Palace
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 004140.
was originally from Picuris Pueblo and married Joe Aguilar in 1922.
Together they had 11 children. She learned to make pottery from
her mother-in-law Susana, who was a very accomplished potter. Joe
painted most of their pieces of pottery. In the
1930's she was among the first, along with Rose Gonzales (1909-1989) to
begin carving pottery. Their carving style was very similar in style with a cameo,
or very shallow carving, style of appearance.
Photo: Ramona Gonzales with her
husband, Juan Gonzales and daughter Marie. Photo by
T. Harmon Parkhurst, Courtesy Palace
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 003774.
Gonzales was one of the early potters, along with Maria Martinez, to help promote the black-on-black pottery of San
Ildefonso pueblo. She was the step-mother of Blue
Corn & Lorenzo Gonzales and the mother-in-law of Rose Gonzales,
whom she taught to make pottery. Her innovative pottery included not
only black-on-black ware but also more intricate polychrome and red-on-red
painted vessels. Her work is
among the most difficult to find, as she signed her pieces for such a short time
before her passing in 1934. Her innovative style continues in her
descendants such as Tse-Pe Gonzales (1940-2000) and Russell Sanchez.
(1909-1988) & Louis "Wo-Peen"
Juanita Gonzales was originally from Taos Pueblo.
She married Louis "Wo-Peen" Gonzales (1907-1990) who
was a son of Juan and Philomena Gonzales. His Tewa
name, "Wo-Peen" means Medicine Mountain. She met him in a hospital
after he lost his arm in a hunting accident. Louis was a gifted artist
and attended the San Ildefonso School of painters in the 1920s.
After he lost his right arm in an accident he taught himself to paint
again with his left hand.
Juanita learned to make
pottery from her sister-in-law, Rose Gonzales (1909-1989). Rose is credited with beginning the carved pottery style at
San Ildefonso in the early 1930's. The carved pottery by Juanita
has a very similar style of carving and imagery as with Rose's work.
While Juanita made the vessels, she also did the carving, while Louis
did the painting of any designs.
Juanita Montoya Pena
(1900 -1987) & Tony Pena
Photo: Juanita Pena holding
her daughter. Photo by Harold Kellog,
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 047580.
Juanita Pena has been an enigma in San
Ildefonso pottery. Her work can be found in numerous
books and a variety of photos of her are found in various
archives, yet there is almost no printed information on her life or family.
However, the pottery created by Juanita and Tony was outstanding in
form and design. They began with black-on-black ware and in the
1930's their work evolved into
complex carved designs.
was related to Martina Vigil Montoya (1856-1916) & Florentino Montoya
(1858-1918) (who were known for their
polychrome pottery). Tony was related to Encarnacion Pena (Soqueen),
who was famous as a traditional style painter and part of the San Ildefonso
school of painters. They had at least four children, Ignacio (b. 1920) and Maria Susanita (b. 1925),
Rosenita (b. 1926) and Philomena (b. 1928), but none continued the pottery making tradition. They continued to make
pottery into the 1950's, but then they stopped as they both were very involved
in religious and Kiva activities at the Pueblo which required full time
Montoya Martinez (1885-1955)
Anna Montoya was the eldest sister of noted potter
Maria Martinez (1887-1980). She was married to Cresencio Martinez
(1879-1918). After the discovery of the process to make black-on-black
quickly adopted the style to her work. Cresencio painted many of their
early polychrome pieces, but after his death 1918 Anna painted her own pieces.
She became an accomplished painter and Maria noted that "everyone bothered Anna to put designs" on their pottery.
Photo: Maria Martinez, left, and her
sister Anna Montoya, right. Photo by
T. Harmon Parkhurst, Courtesy Palace
of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 003791.
(ca. 1881 -1960)
Isabel Pena was a
granddaughter of Cipriana Pena and a daughter of Tonita Pena (ca
1847-1910) who was known for making large storage vessels. Isabel was the wife
of Pasqual Martinez. Isabel's descendants continue to make classic style
pottery, including her great-grandson Elvis
Santa Clara Pueblo
Photo: Geronimo Tafoya and Sara Fina
Tafoya, Circa 1920. Courtesy of the Tafoya Family and "Born of Fire: The
Life and Art of Margaret Tafoya".
Sara Fina Tafoya is among the most
renown of the early Santa Clara potters. She was the matriarch of
a dynasty of potters, included among her children were Camilio
Tafoya, Margaret Tafoya and Christina Naranjo. Beginning in
1924 Sara Fina was one of the first pueblo potters to begin "carving"
into the clay to create designs in her pottery. She was masterful
with her forms, where the simplicity of the shape, especially with her
larger vessels such as the storage jars, did not require additional
design. Part of her genius was adding elaborate shapes for the
handles and unusual indentions such as the "raindrop" rims. These
created special features which readily identified her pottery. Her
pottery was not signed except for a short period in the late 1930's when
she made smaller pieces, often polychrome but also some classic black
ware. Certainly a testament to her skill is that few Pueblo potters
today are able to create either pottery of such size or with such
complicated additions such as her handles.
For additional information on Sara Fina Tafoya, we
of Fire: The Life and Pottery of Margaret Tafoya"
by Charles S. King
"King has made himself a scholar in pursuit of an
understanding of how traditional ways of life, changing times and one woman's
vision are so tightly bound. . . . Born of Fire is a
handsome introduction to and reminder of the exquisite pottery of Margaret
-The Bloomsbury Review - 2008
Regarded as one of the great masters of Pueblo
ceramics, Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001) is known for her trademark large black
polished ceramics, decorated with traditional imagery of rain clouds, water
serpents, bear paws, and other symbols. An award-winning artist, she was
recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwestern
Association for Indian Arts, and a National Heritage Fellowship.
This book is the first complete biography of Margaret Tafoya's life.
It is divided into decades, giving the reader a deeper understanding of her
life and pottery covering nearly 100 years.
It is also the first book to help identify and date her pottery thorough the
use of her signatures. There are additional biographies on Virginia
Ebelacker, Richard Ebelacker, Lee Tafoya, Linda Tafoya, Jennie Trammel, Mela
Youngblood, Nathan Youngblood, Nancy Youngblood, Toni Roller, Jeff Roller,
LuAnn Tafoya, Daryl Whitegeese, Mary Ester Archuleta and Shirley Tafoya.
The photography of the pottery in this book is exceptional. Personal
narratives by family members and family photographs throughout the book
create a wonderful sense of her humanity and artistic accomplishments.
Hardcover, 160 pages
For additional information on Maria Martinez and her
family, we recommend....
Legacy of Maria Poveka Martinez"
By Richard Spivey
"The ceramicist Maria Poveka Martinez (1887-1980), known to the world as
“Maria,” continues, more than two decades after her death, to be the most famous
and recognizable Native American artist ever known. Partly it is that her pots,
humbly called, are breathtaking works of art no matter the comparison. It is
also true that by virtue of her enormously generous spirit and radiant being she
managed a kind of approachability that most legends protect themselves against.
We feel we know her when her pots have touched us, and out of this exchange
something is better in this world.
The Legacy of
Maria Poveka Martinez is Richard L. Spivey’s masterwork as well, his
tribute to a friendship with a great artist that began with Maria’s son Popovi
Da and extended to Maria and to many of her family members who joined over the
years in the collaborations that brought San Ildefonso ceramic art to the world
while reviving its ancient roots for every generation of artist to come.
Two hundred fine examples of Maria’s pottery are reproduced, many heretofore
hidden in private collections and museum storage. Among these are nine
magnificent storage jars comprising the entirety of the artist’s production in
this form. The author’s long association with the family yields reflections on
the artist and her important collaborative relationships with Julian Martinez,
their son Popovi Da, and daughter-in-law Santana Martinez. The artistic
achievements of Maria and Julian’s descendants document significant developments
in Pueblo ceramics at San Ildefonso. Many of grandson Tony Da’s works are
assembled for the first time.
the pottery types and design motifs are here in the best examples from a career
that spanned some seventy productive years, along with their identifying
signatures, but it is the container of Maria’s life that holds it all with such
Hardcover, 208 pages