Margaret and Luther were a brother and sister team of Santa Clara potters. Their parents were Lela and Van (Evangelio) Gutierrez. Luther was born in 1911, began making pottery around 1935 and was making pots almost until the day he passed in 1987. From 1956 to about 1966, Luther worked with Lela after Van died, then worked with Margaret after Lela died. The signature dates on their pottery are like this:
Lela/Luther signature: 1956-1966
Margaret/Luther signature: 1966-1987
Margaret alone: 1988-2018
Margaret was born in 1936 and passed in 2018. Margaret and Luther began collaborating in the early 1960's but that ended with Luther's death in 1987. After that Margaret worked with Luther's daughter Pauline. Shortly after that Pauline died, so Margaret began working with Pauline's daughter, Stephanie.
Together, Margaret and Luther continued and expanded on a tradition begun by their parents, Lela and Van. In the early days of their collaboration, Margaret and Luther were producing polychrome jars, bowls and wedding vases, often decorated with avanyu, clouds, rain, sky bands and lightning bolts in bright, traditional Santa Clara color combinations. Then Luther began searching out new colors of clay and they developed their own unique color palette. In the 1970's they switched it up and began producing polychrome figurines of various animals and other creatures, painted with the unique color palette they had become famous for.
They were participants in the 1974 Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery exhibit at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque. In 1976 they were honored with a show at the Popovi Da Studio of Indian Arts at San Ildefonso Pueblo. In 1985, along with Margaret Tafoya and others, they were participants in a show at the Sid Deutsch Gallery in New York City.
Margaret, by herself, earned a 1st Place ribbon for a painted wedding vase at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1975. She participated in Santa Fe Indian Market every year from 1975 to 1998. She was also a participant in the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show from 1995 to 1998.
They may not have won a lot of awards during their careers but they did make a lot of people smile with the sheer whimsicality of many of their pieces.
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.
For more info: Santa Clara Pueblo at Wikipedia Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Upper photo courtesy of Einar Kvaran, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Pueblos: Cochiti, Jemez, Acoma, Isleta, Santa Clara
Historically, clay figures have been present in the Pueblo pottery tradition for most of the last thousand years. However, figures and effigies were denounced as "works of the devil" by the Spanish missionaries in New Mexico between 1540 and 1820. Before and after that time the art of making figurative sculpture flourished, especially at Cochiti Pueblo. The forms of animals, birds and caricatures of outsiders and, more recently, of images of mothers and grandfathers telling stories and singing to children have multiplied.
The "storyteller" is an important role in the tribe as parents are often too busy working and raising kids to pass on their tribal histories and the Native American people did not have a written language to record anything for posterity. The closest thing they had to a written language was pottery and the designs that decorated that pottery. So the storyteller's role was to preserve and retell and pass down the oral history of his people. In most tribes that role was fulfilled by men.
The first real storyteller figure was created in 1964 by Cochiti Pueblo potter Helen Cordero in memory of her grandfather, Santiago Quintana. She gathered her clay from a secret sacred place on the lands of her pueblo. Then she hand-coiled, hand painted and fired that first storyteller figure the traditional way: in the ground. Helen never used any molds or kilns to make her pottery.
Helen's creation struck a chord throughout all the pueblos as the storyteller is a figure central to all their societies. Most tribes also have the figure of the Singing Maiden in their pantheon and in many cases, the mix of Singing Maiden and Storyteller has blurred some lines in the pottery world. Today, as many as three hundred potters in thirteen pueblos have created storytellers, and their storytellers are not only men and women, but also Santa’s, mudheads, koshares, bears, owls and other animals, often encumbered with children numbering more than one hundred! Each potter has also customized their storyteller figures to more closely reflect the styles and dress of their own tribes, sometimes even of their own clans.
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.
Leocadia Gutierrez & Thomas Dozier Their descendants who became potters:
Lela (1874-1966) & Van (Evangelio)) Gutierrez (1870-1956) Their descendants who became potters:
Luther Gutierrez (1911-1987) & Lupita Naranjo Their descendants who became potters:
Paul & Dorothy Gutierrez Their descendants who became potters:
Paul Gutierrez Jr. (b. 1966)
Pauline Gutierrez Her descendants who became potters:
Stephanie Naranjo (b. 1960)
Margaret Gutierrez (1936-2018)
Severa Tafoya (1890-1973) and Cleto Tafoya Their descendants who became potters:
Angela Baca (1927-2014) & Antonio Baca Their descendants who became potters:
Alvin Baca (b. 1966)
Daryl Baca (b. 1961)
David Baca (b. 1951)
Leona Baca (b. 1958)
Epimenia (Mela) Tafoya (1920-1962) & Robert Nichols Their descendants who became potters:
Robert Cleto Nichols (b. 1961)
Lydia Tafoya (1923-1975) & Santiago Garcia Their descendants who became potters:
Greg Garcia (1961-2010)
Tina Garcia (1957-2005)
Virginia Garcia (b. 1963)
Maria (Mary Agnes) Tafoya (1925-1983) Her descendants who became potters:
Stephanie Tafoya Fuentes (b. 1963) & Lorenzo Fuentes
Alita Povijua (b. 1957)
Kathy Silva (b. 1947)
Wanda Tafoya Her descendants who became potters:
Eric Tafoya (b. 1969)
Tonita (b. 1930) & Paul Tafoya Their descendants who became potters:
Paul Speckled Rock (1952-2017) His descendants who became potters:
Adam Speckled Rock (b. 1972)
Kenneth Tafoya (b. 1953)
Ray Tafoya (1956-1995) His descendants who became potters: