Black bowl carved with a four panel geometric design Last month
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Betty Tafoya, Santa Clara, Black bowl carved with a four panel geometric design Last month
Artist: Betty Tafoya
Pueblo: Santa Clara
Dimensions: 3 1/4 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Item Number: roscf7289
Price: $ 775
Description: Black bowl carved with a four panel geometric design Last month
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Betty Tafoya Santa Clara Pueblo, Espanola, New Mexico

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Santa Clara Pueblo

The Puye Cliff Ruins
Ruins at Puye Cliffs, Santa Clara Pueblo

Santa Clara Pueblo straddles the Rio Grande about 25 miles north of Santa Fe. Of all the pueblos, Santa Clara has the largest number of potters.

The ancestral roots of the Santa Clara people have been traced to the pueblos in the Mesa Verde region in southwestern Colorado. When that area began to get dry between about 1100 and 1300, some of the people migrated to the Chama River Valley and constructed Poshuouinge (about 3 miles south of what is now Abiquiu on the edge of the mesa above the Chama River). Eventually reaching two and three stories high with up to 700 rooms on the ground floor, Poshuouinge was inhabited from about 1375 to about 1475. Drought then again forced the people to move, some of them going to the area of Puye (on the eastern slopes of the Pajarito Plateau of the Jemez Mountains) and others to Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo, along the Rio Grande). Beginning around 1580, drought forced the residents of the Puye area to relocate closer to the Rio Grande and they founded what we now know as Santa Clara Pueblo on the west bank of the river, between San Juan and San Ildefonso Pueblos.

In 1598 Spanish colonists from nearby Yunque (the seat of Spanish government near San Juan Pueblo) brought the first missionaries to Santa Clara. That led to the first mission church being built around 1622. However, the Santa Clarans chafed under the weight of Spanish rule like the other pueblos did and were in the forefront of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. One pueblo resident, a mixed black and Tewa man named Domingo Naranjo, was one of the rebellion's ringleaders. When Don Diego de Vargas came back to the area in 1694, he found most of the Santa Clarans on top of nearby Black Mesa (with the people of San Ildefonso). An extended siege didn't subdue them so eventually, the two sides negotiated a treaty and the people returned to their pueblo. However, successive invasions and occupations by northern Europeans took their toll on the tribe over the next 250 years. The Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 almost wiped them out.

Today, Santa Clara Pueblo is home to as many as 2,600 people and they comprise probably the largest per capita number of artists of any North American tribe (estimates of the number of potters run as high as 1-in-4 residents).

Today's pottery from Santa Clara is typically either black or red. It is usually highly polished and designs might be deeply carved or etched ("sgraffito") into the pot's surface. The water serpent, ("avanyu"), is a traditional design motif of Santa Clara pottery. Another motif comes from the legend that a bear helped the people find water during a drought. The bear paw has appeared on their pottery ever since.

One of the reasons for the distinction this pueblo has received is because of the evolving artistry the potters have brought to the craft. Not only did this pueblo produce excellent black and redware, several notable innovations helped move pottery from the realm of utilitarian vessels into the domain of art. Different styles of polychrome redware emerged in the 1920's-1930's. In the early 1960's experiments with stone inlay, incising and double firing began. Modern potters have also extended the tradition with unusual shapes, slips and designs, illustrating what one Santa Clara potter said: "At Santa Clara, being non-traditional is the tradition." (This refers strictly to artistic expression; the method of creating pottery remains traditional).

Santa Clara Pueblo is home to a number of famous pottery families: Tafoya, Baca, Gutierrez, Naranjo, Suazo, Chavarria, Garcia, Vigil, Tapia - to name a few.

Harvest, Santa Clara Pueblo c. 1912
Courtesy Museum of New Mexico Neg. No. 4128
Santa Clara Pueblo c. 1920
Courtesy Museum of New Mexico Neg. No. 4214


Print this Pueblo History(.pdf)

Margaret Tafoya Family Tree

Disclaimer: This "family tree" is a best effort on our part to determine who the potters are in this family and arrange them in a generational order. The general information available is questionable so we have tried to show each of these diagrams to living members of each family to get their input and approval, too. This diagram is subject to change should we get better info.


Serafina Tafoya (1863-1949) & Geronimo Tafoya
Her children who became potters:
  • Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001) & Alcario Tafoya (d. 1995)
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Mary Ester Archuleta (1942-2010)
    • Jennie Trammel (1929-2010)
    • Virginia Ebelacker (1925-2001)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • James Ebelacker (b. 1960)
      • Richard Ebelacker (1946-2010) & Yvonne Ortiz
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Jason Ebelacker
        • Jerome Ebelacker
    • Lee Tafoya (1926-1996) & Betty Tafoya
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Linda Oyenque Tafoya (b. 1962)
    • Mela Youngblood (1931-1990)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Nancy Youngblood (b. 1955)
      • Nathan Youngblood (b. 1954)
    • Toni Roller (b. 1935)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Cliff Roller (b. 1961)
      • Jeff Roller (b. 1963)
        His descendants who became potters:
        • Jordan Roller
        • Ryan Roller
      • Susan Roller (b. 1955)
      • Tim Roller (b. 1959)
    • LuAnn Tafoya (b. 1938)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Michele Tafoya Browning (b. 1960)
      • Daryl Duane Whitegeese (b. 1964)
    • Shirley Cactus Blossom Tafoya (b. 1947)
  • Christina Naranjo (1891-1980)
    Her descendants who became potters:
    • Mary Cain (1916-2010)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Billy Cain (1950-2005)
      • Joy Cain (b. 1947)
      • Linda Cain (b. 1949)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Autumn Borts (b. 1967)
        • Tammy Garcia (b. 1969)
    • Teresita Naranjo (1919-1999)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Stella Chavarria (b. 1939)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Denise Chavarria (b. 1959)
        • Joey Chavarria (1964-1987)
        • Sunday Chavarria (b. 1963)
    • Cecilia Naranjo
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Sharon Naranjo Garcia (b. 1951)
      • Judy Tafoya (b. 1962) & Lincoln Tafoya (b. 1954)
    • Mida Tafoya (b. 1931)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Sherry Tafoya (b. 1956)
      • Phillis & Mathew Tafoya (b. 1953)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Marlin & Phyllis Hemlock
  • Camilio Tafoya (1902-1995) & Agapita Silva (1904-1959)
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Joe Tafoya & Lucy Year Flower (1935-2012)
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Myra Little Snow (b. 1962)
    • Joseph Lonewolf (1932-2014) & Katheryn
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Greg Lonewolf (b. 1952)
      • Rosemary Apple Blossom Lonewolf (b. 1954) & Paul Speckled Rock (1952-2017)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Adam Speckled Rock
      • Susan Romero
    • Grace Medicine Flower (b. 1938)

Pottery Care & Consideration

  • The most obvious tip: Yes, the pots will break if you drop them!
  • Do not expose pottery to water (Inside or outside). Do not wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Dust pottery only with a soft, smooth cloth (no terry cloth or textured fabric). A very soft paintbrush (sable or camel) can be used.
  • Always use two hands to carry your pot: one on top and one on the bottom, or one hand on each side. Be careful with handles, they can be fragile. Do not grip or lift pots by the rim. Take care when wearing jewelry, rings can scratch the finish.
  • Place a piece of felt or cloth between the pot and the shelf to protect the signature.
  • Avoid exposing pottery to extreme temperature changes.

For those who live in "earthquake country" (also good for mischievous pets):

  • Weigh pots down with a small zip lock bag containing sand, glass marbles, rice, etc. Do not fill the pot more than one third full as you want them bottom heavy. Remember to remove the weight before moving.
  • Secure your shelves; make sure they are well attached to the walls. Shelf brackets should be of sufficient length and strength to support the weight of your pottery.
  • Prevent pots from sliding. Consider attaching a small wooden molding to the front of shelves. Line shelves with non-slip material (a thin sheet of rubber foam, Styrofoam sheeting, etc.)
  • If you need assistance with special problems, major cleaning (your grandchild spills ice cream on your pot), restoration or repair (the cat breaks a pot), or replacement (irreparable damage), please feel free to call us.

We hope these ideas help you maintain the beauty and value of your pottery for years of enjoyment.

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