Polychrome jar with carved geometric design, sgraffito animal and fish design and inlaid bands of heishe beads made by Russell Sanchez of San Ildefonso
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Russell Sanchez, San Ildefonso, Polychrome jar with carved geometric design, sgraffito animal and fish design and inlaid bands of heishe beads
Russell Sanchez
San Ildefonso
$ 3200
xxsim8407
Polychrome jar with carved geometric design, sgraffito animal and fish design and inlaid bands of heishe beads
4 1/2 in H by 4 3/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Russell Sanchez

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Russell Sanchez

San Ildefonso
Etching, silver accent and heishi beads on a lidded, burnished jar, by Russell Sanchez
 

Russell Sanchez was born at San Ildefonso Pueblo in 1963. As a child he spent a lot of time with his grandparents, Oqwa Pi (an award-winning painter) and Pomasena Cata Sanchez, Rose Gonzales' younger sister. When Russell was about 8, Rose began teaching him the traditional way to make pottery. He says that one day when he was 11 or 12 he put a batch of small, newly finished black-on-black pots outside and Anita Da (Popovi Da's widow) came by and took a look. Then she told him, "I want you to start bringing me stuff" and that's how his pottery career really began to take off. After a while he also began working with Dora Tse-Pe, Rose's daughter-in-law, and from her he learned how to refine his process and attain a more perfect product. Since then he has developed his own techniques and has often been referred to as a modernist potter.

Because he grew up speaking Tewa, Russell was able to converse with his tribal elders and they told him where to go and what to look for when he went out in search of clay deposits. He found many of the old clay sources at San Ildefonso and has used them to help recreate many of the San Ildefonso styles from the 1800's, well before most San Ildefonso potters started creating black-on-black pots. He's done significant research into old styles and designs among the collections at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the School for Advanced Research but when asked if he copies any he responds with a saying he learned in his youth: "This is mine, this is what I do. Take it and make it your own."

Russell is an avid outdoorsman and an expert with a kayak and a river raft. He's paddled rivers in Peru and Chile and challenged the Zambesi River in southern Africa. However, tamer rivers closer to home allow him to gather clay wherever he finds it. That has led to experiments with many different types of clay, even to the point of incorporating two or more different colors of clay into the same pot. He also often uses slips made of different colors of clay, including micaceous. His designs are painted, carved, incised and sometimes inlaid with turquoise and/or coral and heishi beads. For Russell, "traditional" doesn't mean being stuck in any one time period, it's more like growing and moving forward with everyone adding something else to the "traditional" as they travel their own paths.

Russell has won many awards over the years, including several 1st and 2nd Place ribbons at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. Collections of his work can be found at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico, the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2017 Russell was awarded the 2017 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.

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San Ildefonso Pueblo

Sacred Black Mesa
Black Mesa at San Ildefonso Pueblo

San Ildefonso Pueblo is located about twenty miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, mostly on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande. Although their ancestry has been traced as far back as abandoned pueblos in the Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado, the most recent ancestral home of the people of San Ildefonso is in the area of Bandelier National Monument, the prehistoric villages of Tyuonyi, Otowi, Navawi and Tsankawi specifically. The area of Tsankawi abuts the reservation on its northwest side.

The San Ildefonso name was given to the village in 1617 when a mission church was established. Before then the village was called Powhoge, "where the water cuts through" (in Tewa). Today's pueblo was established as long ago as the 1300's and when the Spanish arrived in 1540 they estimated the village population at about 2,000.

That village mission was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to reclaim the San Ildefonso area in 1694, he found virtually the entire tribe on top of nearby Black Mesa. After an extended siege the two sides negotiated a treaty and the people returned to their village. However, the next 250 years were not good for them. Finally, the Spanish swine flu pandemic of 1918 reduced the tribe's population to about 90. The tribe's population has increased to more than 600 today but the only economic activity available for most on the pueblo involves the creation of art in one form or another. The only other jobs are off-pueblo. San Ildefonso's population is small compared to neighboring Santa Clara Pueblo, but the pueblo maintains its own religious traditions and ceremonial feast days.

San Ildefonso has produced fine ceramic art since early pre-Columbian times. The pueblo is most known for being the home of the most famous Pueblo Indian potter, Maria Martinez. Many other excellent potters have produced quality pottery from this pueblo, too, among them: Blue Corn, Tonita and Juan Roybal, Dora Tse Pe and Rose Gonzales. Of course the descendants of Maria Martinez are still important pillars of San Ildefonso's pottery tradition. Maria's influence reached far and wide, so far and wide that even Juan Quezada, founder of the Mata Ortiz pottery renaissance in Chihuahua, Mexico, came to San Ildefonso to learn from her.

San Ildefonso Pueblo location map

For more info:
at Wikipedia
official website
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, by Daniel Gibson
Photo is in the public domain

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