The Fragua name is synonymous with pottery at the Jemez Pueblo. Although Helen Cordero first created the traditional storyteller dolls at Cochiti Pueblo, it wasn’t long before the potters at Jemez began to create similar figurines.
The main difference was that Jemez storytellers were more often whimsical and humorous in nature. Of course, that is not always true, but it certainly makes up the majority of storytellers created by Chris and Vera Fragua, a lovely couple we have worked with for over 40 years.
The other night, I was listening to some cable news station and the way people were going back and forth at each other when I thought of one of my favorite sets of figurines that Vera makes. Although she doesn’t always follow the rule, I can remember my mother saying, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”
That led me to Vera’s three-figure creations of “Say No Evil, Hear No Evil, See No Evil.” Think about it, wouldn’t it be a better world?
And truly, that is the kind of people that Chris and Vera are.
They are traditional potters and dig their clay from the deposits around Jemez. They fire their pots outside, except in the winter when it’s too cold, and they use natural slips.
Jemez was one of the last Pueblos to begin making contemporary pottery. Their Pueblo is in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Jemez Mountains with great agricultural land. They were farmers and traded for pottery with the Zia Pueblo, about thirty miles away, but in an area not as conducive to growing crops. The Jemez people did make pottery back in the 17th century before the great Pueblo revolt, but it is seldom that you see any of this early work, even in museums.
It wasn’t until the 1920’s that a pottery revival at the Pueblo began. And, of course, it was aimed at the growing tourist market rather than as a utilitarian art form.
Chris started making pottery in 1955 when he was just 18. He and Vera often work together, but they also have their own specialties. I love their work because it makes you feel good!