The process of creating Santa Clara, or any other traditional Pueblo pottery, is exacting and challenging. From locating the clay source, digging it out of the ground, cleaning it, creating the pot by hand using the coil method, carving or painting designs on the pot, polishing it and then firing it under a pile of Pinon or sheep manure, it is a long process.
If everything is not done correctly, the pot may break when fired. If the wind comes up, the finish will not be perfect. It is difficult to make a simple basic pot, but creating a unique, elegant and technically perfect pot is very, very challenging. It is for these reasons that so few potters reach that level of artistry.
It is for those same reasons that so few young people take up the art of pottery making. Of those that do, few will become great artists.
One woman who will always be regarded as one of the finest Pueblo potters was Teresita Tafoya Naranjo. Born in 1919, she began potting in the mid-1930’s and was active until she passed on in 1999. She was the daughter of Christina Naranjo and the niece of Margaret Tafoya, considered the master potter of Santa Clara Pueblo.
Her pottery, done in both black and red, always had a wonderful finish and the carving was exquisite!
These three pieces of Teresita’s pottery are examples of three different styles of her work. She was an incredibly talented and celebrated artist.