Polychrome jar with four-direction geometric design 
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Robert Tenorio, Santo Domingo, Polychrome jar with four-direction geometric design
Artist: Robert Tenorio
Pueblo: Santo Domingo
Dimensions: 7 3/4 in H by 8 in Dia
Item Number: jksdj7251
Price: $ 925
Description: Polychrome jar with four-direction geometric design
Condition: Very Good
Signature: Robert Tenorio Kewa NM 2011
Date Created: 2011
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Robert Tenorio

Santo Domingo
Wildlife and geometric design on a polychrome bowl

Born in 1950, Robert Tenorio grew up on Santo Domingo Pueblo in northern New Mexico. He began working with clay early in life, learning the basics with his grandmother Andrea Ortiz and his great-aunt Lupe Tenorio. However, when he finished high school and moved on to the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe he began studying art and jewelry design. Before too long he switched back and began formal training with clay under Otellie Loloma.

When he returned to the Pueblo, though, he had to learn some of the traditional art of potting all over again as he no longer had access to the clays and the kiln available to him at school. He began collecting and processing native clays and learning the traditional firing methods used by his people. Robert began creating pots, canteens and polychrome jars characteristic of the centuries old styles of his Santo Domingo ancestors.

Potting full time since 1970, Robert's work reflects his reverence for his heritage. Santo Domingo is known for its utilitarian ware decorated with birds, fish, flowers and simple geometrics, and that's what Robert says he most enjoys making.

Robert earned his first award at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair in 1971 and has won enough ribbons since to "make two quilts!" he says. One piece he entered at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market earned a ribbon in the new category it created: Prehistoric Pottery. In 2000 he was awarded the Governor's Award at the Santa Fe Indian Market and earned two more First Place ribbons in 2004. His work can be found in the collections of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, the Nagoya Museum in Japan and the Royal Family of Great Britain collection. He signs his work "Robert Tenorio, KEWA, N.M."

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Santo Domingo Pueblo

The Mission Church at Santo Domingo Pueblo
Santo Domingo Pueblo Mission Church

Santo Domingo Pueblo is located on the east bank of the Rio Grande about half-way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Historically, the people of Santo Domingo were among the most active of Pueblo traders. The pueblo also has a reputation of being ultra traditional, probably due, at least in part, to the longevity of the pueblo's pottery styles. Some of today's popular designs have changed very little since the 1700's.

In pre-Columbian times, traders from Santo Domingo were trading turquoise (from mines in the Cerrillos Hills) and hand-made heishe beads as far away as central Mexico. Many artisans in the pueblo still work in the old ways and produce wonderful silver and turquoise jewelry and heishe decorations.

Like the people of nearby San Felipe and Cochiti, the people of Santo Domingo speak Keres and trace their ancestry back to villages established in the Pajarito Plateau area in the 1400's. Like the other Rio Grande pueblos, Santo Domingo rose up against the Spanish oppressors in 1680, following Alonzo Catiti as he led the Keres-speaking pueblos and worked with Popé (of San Juan Pueblo) to stop the Spanish atrocities. However, when Spanish Governor Antonio Otermin returned to the area in 1681, he found Santo Domingo deserted and ordered it burned. The pueblo residents had fled to a nearby mountain stronghold and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to Nuevo Mexico in 1692, he attacked that mountain fortress and burned it, too. Catiti died in that battle and Keres opposition to the Spanish crumbled with his death. The survivors of that battle fled, some to Acoma, some to fledgling Laguna, some to the Hopi mesas. Over time most of them returned to Santo Domingo.

In the 1790's Santo Domingo accepted an influx of refugees from the Galisteo Basin area as they fled the near-constant attacks of Apache, Comanche, Ute and Navajo raiders in that area. Today's main Santo Domingo village was founded about 1886.

In 1598 Santo Domingo was the site of the first gathering of 38 pueblo governors by Don Juan de Oñaté to try to force them to swear allegiance to the crown of Spain. Today, the All Indian Pueblo Council (consisting of the nineteen remaining pueblo's governors and an executive staff) gathers at Santo Domingo for their first meeting every year, to continue what is now the oldest annual political gathering in America. During the time of the Spanish occupation Santo Domingo served as the headquarters of the Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico and religious trials were held there during the Spanish Inquisition.

Today, the people of Santo Domingo number around 4,500, with about two-thirds of them living on the reservation. The pottery traditions of the pueblo almost died out after the railroads arrived and many Santo Domingos went to work laying tracks. Even today many Santo Domingo men work as firefighters for the US Forest Service in fire season and ply their artistic talents during the rest of the year.

Potter Robert Tenorio began working to revive the Santo Domingo pottery tradition in the early 1970's. His influence can be found among many of today's Santo Domingo potters, even if they say he stimulated them to learn on their own.

While today's Santo Domingo pottery is known for designs described as simple geometrics, another outstanding feature is boldness: the lines are thick and well-defined.

As religious leaders forbid the representation of human figures as well as other sacred designs on pottery made for commercial purposes, birds, fish and flowers are common design motifs. Depictions of mammals are rarely seen. Another typical Santo Domingo style is to paint in the negative, meaning cover the pot in panels of big swatches of black and red so that only a few lines of the cream slip show through.

Santo Domingo Pueblo location map

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Tenorio 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.

    Andrea Ortiz (1900-1993)
    Her daughter who became a potter:
    • Juanita Calabaza Tenorio (1922-1982) & Andres Tenorio
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Paulita Pacheco (1943-2008) & Gilbert Pacheco (1940-2010)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Andrew Pacheco (b. 1975)
        • Rose Pacheco (b. 1968) & Billy Veale
      • Robert Tenorio (b. 1950)
      • Hilda Coriz (1949-2007) & Arthur Coriz (1948-1999)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Ione Coriz (b. 1973)
        • Warren Coriz (1966-2011)
    Gilbert Pacheco's sisters who became potters:
    • Laurencita Calabaza
      Her daughter who became a potter:
      • Santana Calabaza
    • Trinidad Pacheco
    • Vivian Sanchez

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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