Grandmother storyteller with 4 children, a basket and plants Last month
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Robin Teller, Isleta, Grandmother storyteller with 4 children, a basket and plants Last month
Artist: Robin Teller
Pueblo: Isleta
Dimensions: 3 3/4 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Item Number: xxled8247
Price: $ 725
Description: Grandmother storyteller with 4 children, a basket and plants Last month
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Robin Teller Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico
Date Created: 2018
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Robin Teller

Isleta
One child on a grandmother storyteller figure, by Robin Teller of Isleta Pueblo
 

The daughter of Stella and Louis Teller, Robin was born on April 6, 1954. By the time she was in her teens, her mother was a well-established potter with a growing collection of hard-earned ribbons. Robin learned the traditional art from her mother and by 1991, she was earning ribbons of her own from the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, Heard Museum and Guild (Phoenix, AZ) and the Eight Northern Pueblo Arts and Crafts Show at Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), near Espanola, NM.

Robin is most known for her Mother Nature storytellers and Nativities but she also creates jars, bowls, and human and animal figures. Like her mother Stella, Robin prefers to put "sleeping eyes" on her storytellers and Nativities.

The mother of two and grandmother of five, she says she gets her inspiration from them, as well as from her spiritual journey through life's experiences and her reverence for all of our Creator's blessings.

She integrates those feelings and emotions into her pottery creations, always as part of an individual story or message. Her work is always recognizable due to the intricate detailing in her forms and designs. For her, pottery is a mini-canvas.

Robin tells us there's a standard of excellence and quality to uphold in relation to the family tradition. That can be seen in the ways in which she expresses her innermost feelings about love, hope and beauty, for the world and for humanity.

Robin has passed her knowledge of the traditional art to her daughter, Leslie Teller Velardez, who has also blossomed into an award-winning potter.


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Isleta Pueblo

The Isleta Mission
San Agustin de la Isletas Mission

Isleta Pueblo was founded in the 1300's. Archaeologists have put forth various ideas as to where the people came from with some scholars saying they migrated north from Mogollon/Mimbres settlements to the south while others say they migrated southwestward from either Chaco Canyon in the 1100's and 1200's or from the Four Corners area in the 1200's and 1300's. Their Tiwa language is shared with nearby Sandia Pueblo and a very similar tongue is spoken to the north at Taos and Picuris Pueblos. The two dialects are sometimes referred to as Southern and Northern Tiwa.

When the Spanish arrived in the area they named the pueblo "Isleta" (meaning: island). The residents were relatively accommodating to the Spanish priests when compared to the reception the same priests got in other areas of Nuevo Mexico (making Isleta something of an "island of safety" for the Spanish in an ocean of hostility). When the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 happened, Isleta either couldn't or wouldn't participate in the rebellion. When the Spanish governor left Santa Fe he went to Isleta and gathered his troops. None wanted to go back and fight so when they left and headed south, many Isletans went south to the El Paso area with them. Others fled to the Hopi settlements in Arizona and returned after the fighting was clearly over, many with Hopi spouses. When the Spanish returned in 1682 they found the Isleta mission church burned and the main structure was being used as a livestock pen. When the Spanish returned in force in 1692 they found Isleta empty and burned. The governor ordered the pueblo be rebuilt and resettled so residents were brought in from Taos and Picuris to the north and from Ysleta del Sur to the south, near El Paso. By 1720 a new, grander mission had been rebuilt on the foundations of the first.

Over the next century dissident members of the Laguna and Acoma Pueblo communities migrated to Isleta. While they were welcomed into the main Isleta pueblo at first, friction developed over the years until in the 1800's, the small communities of Oraibi and Chicale were established and most of the newcomers moved to one or the other.

The advent of the railroad in New Mexico was almost the end of the Isleta community as so many of the men went to work for the railroad. While the remaining residents managed to hold on to some of their social and religious practices, other elements of their culture almost disappeared, pottery making being one of those traditions that barely survived.

Today, making pottery the traditional way is practiced by only a few potters and their close family members.

Location of Isleta Pueblo


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Storytellers

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.

 
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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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