Red seed pot with sgraffito rabbit, feather and geometric design and a sculpted rabbit lid Last month
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Camilio Tafoya, Santa Clara, Red seed pot with sgraffito rabbit, feather and geometric design and a sculpted rabbit lid Last month
Artist: Camilio Tafoya
Pueblo: Santa Clara
Dimensions: 4 in H by 2 1/2 in Dia
Item Number: xxsck7241
Price: $ 1400
Description: Red seed pot with sgraffito rabbit, feather and geometric design and a sculpted rabbit lid Last month
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Camilio Sunflower Tafoya Santa Clara Pueblo

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Camilio Sunflower Tafoya

Santa Clara
Sgraffito nature design on a polychrome seed pot by Camilio Tafoya
 

Camilio Tafoya was born in 1902 to Geronimo and Serafina Tafoya of Santa Clara Pueblo. Like his sisters, Margaret Tafoya and Christina Naranjo, he grew up watching and helping his mother make pottery. His father, a wood carver, taught him to carve and Camilio adapted that learning to the carving of pottery. He learned to make his clay coils thicker and allow the pots to dry harder before beginning to carve them. That solved the problem of carving too deeply and ruining a pot by carving through it. Using his method he learned to make very large carved jars.

Among his favorite designs to carve were the avanyu (water serpent), birds, flowers, bear paws, and ancient Mimbres and rock art designs he found while hiking around in the hills and mountains surrounding Santa Clara. Joseph, Camilio's son, remembered his father taking him into the mountains and hiking around. Joseph was impressed by the petroglyphs they often came across. Camilio was able to translate the meanings of many of the designs so that Joseph could understand what the designs symbolized. Variations of those carved designs reappeared many times over the years in the work of Camilio and later in Joseph's work. During those walks they also found many old pottery shards, some painted, some incised, some carved, some corrugated and all ancient. That's where the great storehouse of Santa Clara designs is kept.

Camilio was one of the first men to become known as a potter in the pueblo. Many men helped their wives with different aspects of the process, like digging and processing the clay, scraping/sanding pots, gathering firewood and manure, firing the pots, etc., but Camilio did the whole process from end to end. His wife, Agapita (Silva) (1904-1959), was an accomplished potter when they married and they worked together for many years. Camilio and Agapita taught their son, Joseph Lonewolf, and daughters Grace Medicine Flower and Lucy Year Flower to make pottery.

In the 1960's, after his wife passed, Camilio stopped making his large, carved pots and his famous sculptural horses. Instead, he, Joseph and Grace began developing the fine art of meticulously incising pottery now known as sgraffito. In that method, designs are scratched into the hard-dried surface of a pot before firing. Simple mistakes can ruin a pot. The amount of time and degree of meticulous work involved have made for increased prices for sgraffito-decorated pots.

In late 1968 Camilio began working closely with Grace, making many highly polished black and red seedpots decorated with intricate sgraffito work. In 1972 he went to work at Joseph's house and was busy making exceptional sgraffito art there almost until the day he died.

In 1985, along with his sister Margaret Tafoya and 42 other Santa Clara potters, Camilio participated in a show at the Sid Deusch Gallery in New York City. He also participated in several gallery shows with his son Joseph in Sacramento and Santa Monica, California and in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Camilio was well-known for having a great sense of humor. One summer in the early 1990's Joseph was preparing for a show at Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery in Santa Fe. Andrea says Camilio came in to see what was happening, said hello to everyone, sat down and joined in the conversation. Someone asked if he had new boots on (because Camilio always wore fancy cowboy boots). He looked down and said, "No, but I have to keep them clean because I can't take them off and put them on the porch at night. The grasshoppers at Santa Clara are so bad this summer I'm afraid my boots would get eaten."

Camilio passed in 1995.


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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


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Seed Pots

Pueblos: Acoma, Hopi, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara

 

It was a matter of survival to the ancient Native American people that seeds be stored properly until the next planting season. Small, hollow pots were made to ensure that the precious seeds would be kept safe from moisture, light and rodents. After seeds were put into the pot, the small hole in the pot was plugged. The following spring the plug was removed and the seeds were shaken from the pot directly onto the planting area.

Today, seed pots are no longer necessary due to readily available seeds from commercial suppliers. However, seed pots continue to be made as beautiful, decorative works of art. The sizes and shapes of seed pots have evolved and vary greatly, depending on the vision of Clay Mother as seen through the artist. The decorations vary, too, from simple white seed pots with raised relief to multi-colored painted, raised relief and sgraffito designs, sometimes with inlaid gemstones and silver lids.

 
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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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