Pottery is still made at the Acoma, Laguna, San Ildefonso,
Santa Ana, , Tesuque, and Zuni pueblos, while the craft has been recently revived at the Isleta, and Nambe pueblos. The Picuris craftspeople produce an unusual pottery, different from most contemporary pueblo art, in that it is strictly utilitarian and without ornament—similar to the original unadorned pottery made strictly for practical purposes. Each pueblo employs its own unique designs that follow the shape of the pot—some with elaborate decoration that covers the form up to the neck of the ware. Native American tribes have venerated life, nature, birds and other animals, humans, and gods. Realistic and abstracted interpretations probably form the basic elements of Indian designs for all utilitarian and ritual objects. Taos
|Maria Martinez Coiling a Pot|
San Ildefonso Pueblo
Early Twentieth Century
For the Native American women who dug the clay for their pots, gathered reeds and rushes for their baskets, sheared sheep for blankets, and worked the leather on which to paint, every aspect of the artistic task was imbued with the divine. In the Tewa language, there is no word for art. There is, however, the concept for an artful life, filled with inspiration and fueled by labor and thoughtful approach.  Historically, some tribes allowed only the women to gather the clay and form the pots, while men were not permitted to perform these particular tasks. In addition, men were the decorators and painters of the pots, although that responsibility has evolved throughout the twentieth century as both women and men are now designers. Ceremonial pots and baskets were used in religious rituals, and the result was a spiritual aura surrounding these common objects.
San Ildefonso is one of nineteen pueblos located in
, and its people have lived on the present site since before C.E. 1300. San Ildefonso belongs to the group of Tewa-speaking pueblos located on the upper New Mexico Rio Grande, approximately 20 miles from . The traditional name of the pueblo is Po’owo’ge, which can be translated as "Place where the waters meet"  Geographically and culturally, San Ildefonso is much like the surrounding local communities, and the pueblos Nambe  and Pojoaque.  The artistic focus of each pueblo, however, is generated to meet the specific needs of its inhabitants. While the artisans of the Nambe work with the black on black and white on red pottery techniques, the San Ildefonso is more concerned with weaving and has a Hispanic, rather than Native American population. Artistically, the San Ildefonso pueblo is unique—made so by Maria Martinez and the ensuing five plus generations of her family that still manufacture pots in the old Indian manner. Santa Fe
|Olla, rare gunmetal finish|
Maria Martinez and son Popovi Da
9 x 9 inches
Mid twentieth century
Next post: Mary Austen, Mabel Dodge, and Maria Martinez
1. Nora Naranjo-Morse, Preface to Mud Woman, Poems from the Clay, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992), http://www.hanksville.org/storytellers/nora/poems/nora.html, (accessed July 9, 2012)
2. Stephen Trimble, Talking with the Clay: The Art of Pueblo Pottery, (Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 1987), 13
4. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Home page for the Nambe Pueblo, http://www.indianpueblo.org/19pueblos/nambe.html (accessed June 23, 2011). “Nambe” means “people of the round earth.” Nambe Pueblo is largely Hispanicized and is almost completely surrounded by non-Indian residents, however, there has been a recent renaissance of interest in the traditional rituals and crafts, and the Nambe artists are making a comeback.