Carved black melon jar New Arrival this month
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Angela Baca, Santa Clara, Carved black melon jar New Arrival this month
Artist: Angela Baca
Pueblo: Santa Clara
Dimensions: 5 1/4 in H by 7 1/2 in Dia
Item Number: wrscb8285
Price: $ 695
Description: Carved black melon jar New Arrival this month
Condition: Very Good
Signature: Angela Baca Santa Clara N.Mex

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Angela Baca

Santa Clara
Angela Baca of Santa Clara Pueblo made this carved black melon jar

Angela Baca was born into Santa Clara Pueblo in 1927, the daughter of Severa Tafoya and Cleto Tafoya. She grew up learning the traditional way to make Pueblo pottery and experimented with different styles before settling on making primarily carved redware and blackware melon bowls around 1955. Her melon bowls won awards at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1992.

In 1984 some of Angela's melon bowls were featured in an exhibition at The Graphic Image in Milburn, NJ, alongside pieces by Maria Martinez, Popovi Da, Stella Chavarria, Blue Corn and others. Some of Angela's bowls are also on display in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, and many other museums and galleries.

After raising and helping to raise many children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and teaching more than a few to make pottery, Angela passed on in 2014.

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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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Gutierrez 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.

    Leocadia Gutierrez & Thomas Dozier
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Evangelio (Van) Gutierrez (1870-1956) & Lela (1874-1969)
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Luther Gutierrez & Lupita Naranjo
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Paul & Dorothy Gutierrez
          Their descendants who became potters:
          • Gary Gutierrez
          • Paul Gutierrez Jr. (b. 1966)
        • Pauline Gutierrez
          Her descendants who became potters:
          • Stephanie Naranjo (b. 1960)
      • Margaret Rose Gutierrez (b. 1936)
    • 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)
        • Gwen Tafoya
        • 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:
          • Jennifer Tafoya (b. 1977)
          • Leslie Tafoya

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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