Old friends are special, especially when you haven’t seen them for a while. I had not heard from Bonnie Fragua for a couple of years, which I guess is true of a lot of our Native acquaintances.
It was a real surprise to get a call from her last week wanting to know how we were and if we could use any Jemez pottery.
I told her we had a lot of storytellers, which is one of her specialties. She responded by telling me she was doing some contemporary Jemez pots, so we agreed she should come and visit.
I first met Bonnie in 1980. Her sister was married to Cheyenne artist Jimmy Little Coyote and lived in South Dakota where she still made Jemez pottery.
Jimmy made beautiful beadwork and was known for traditional headdresses that were absolutely amazing. We sold several to the man who started The Sharper Image catalog and he had ordered more to give to his friends.
Unfortunately, Jimmy passed away in 1980 and his wife, Emily, was traveling to New Mexico to sell pottery to help pay for the funeral. She had been making pots and saving them for a trip for some time.
Bonnie was living in Durango at the time and her sister stopped to stay with her. “I remember,” she said this week, “that we really didn’t have any money and you bought all of her pots when you didn’t need them. Jimmy had a great funeral with lots of people.”
I had completely forgotten about that day. Jimmy was an incredible artist and there is no one nicer than the Fragua family.
Anyway, Bonnie showed up last week and we had a great visit. She and her husband moved to Rio Rancho when the pandemic started. Her husband works at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and because of the lockdown at the Pueblo, he was not able to travel to work and then come home.
“We had to look for a place in Rio Rancho without a Home Owners Association because I needed to be able to build fires in the back yard to fire my pottery,” Bonnie explained.
She began making pottery when she was 12 and her mother and older sister would take her around to sell it. She remembered coming to see us as a child in the old Pepsi Building where my father had his showroom and remembered us when Emily needed to sell her work.
Bonnie is just a great, easy going artist. One of her favorite subjects is the turtle. “I like to make them because a turtle is slow, taking his time, enjoying itself. It leads to a long life.”
We could all remember that!
It was great to see an old friend and have her remind me of what’s important.