Some people have a sense of humor, some don’t. I’ve always found that it was a lot more fun hanging around with someone that did.

A person I’d like to spend time with is Cochiti Pueblo potter Martha Arquero. Almost all her work captures the funny bone of the human spirit. She just looks at the world with a happy smile.

Coming from the Pueblo where Helen Cordero created the first storyteller doll, she has followed the tradition, but with a twist. Many of her storytellers are animals and she is probably best known for her frog storytellers. She also made many pots depicting frogs, and we recently obtained a great example. Three Singing Frogs is the title I’ve given to this set of amphibians, sending out their croaks to the world! They just make you feel good.


All her pottery figures are done using traditional techniques, from digging and cleaning the clay all the way through to the firing. She was born in 1944 and her mother and teacher was the famous traditional potter, Damacia Arquero.

We have another, sort of traditional storyteller, that makes me smile. When Helen Cordero created the storyteller tradition, it was her attempt to show the wise grandfather sharing his stories of life with the youngsters in the family. True storytellers are always men.

Well, Martha did a storyteller of a perhaps not so well-behaved grandfather. He is sitting with his grandson on his right knee while he savors the joys of smoking a pipe.


When I saw it, it made me think of my grandmother, Marguerite, who always went with her father, Harry Jackson, to Hot Springs, Arkansas when she was a kid. He told everyone, my great-grandmother included, that he went for the Hot Springs to help the aches and pains he had from being a blacksmith for so many years.

He may have put a toe in the hot springs, but he spent most of his time gambling, working as a shill for an auction house and enjoying an occasional whiskey. It worked out well for him and for my grandmother. He had fun, she got money to shop and enjoy being in the resort town. When they came home, she never said a word. They were very close until he died.

So, I’m thinking about this young Pueblo boy, sitting with his pipe smoking grandpa and hearing his stories about growing up. They probably had a great time and I doubt Mrs. Storyteller heard a word about the pipe!

Some people believe that art should always be a serious business. I believe that Martha Arquero proves that to be incorrect!

See all art by Martha Arquero