Miniature red jar with sgraffito Mimbres dragonfly and geometric design
 made by Mae Tapia of Santa Clara
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Mae Tapia, Santa Clara, Miniature red jar with sgraffito Mimbres dragonfly and geometric design
Mae Tapia
Santa Clara
$ 325
ejsce9228
Miniature red jar with sgraffito Mimbres dragonfly and geometric design
1 in H by 1 1/2 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Mae Tapia Santa Clara Pueblo

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Mae Tapia


Santa Clara
Mae Tapia
Sienna spots and sgraffito designs on a black seedpot
 

Mae Tapia was born to Joe and Santanita Suazo of Santa Clara Pueblo in 1952. She learned the traditional art of pottery making from her mother while growing up. She's been making pottery since she was 19 years old. Other potters in her family include sisters Candelaria Suazo, Margie Naranjo and Shirley Duran, her mother-in-law Belen Tapia, and her two children, Ira Tapia and April Tapia.

Mae has participated in the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show and the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market and she has won 1st Place ribbons from both.

Her favorite shape is the seed pot and her favorite designs are based on ancient Mimbres designs. She tells us she gets her inspiration from her mother, her mother-in-law and from Martha Haungooah. She also says she has no plans when she puts her hands to the clay, she just lets the clay decide what she's going to make and it guides her every step of the way.

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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

Santa Clara Pueblo location map
For more info:
at Wikipedia
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Upper photo courtesy of Einar Kvaran, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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Mimbres Pottery

Mimbres Mogollon

Polychrome seed pot with a Mimbres-style fish and geometric design

Rebecca Lucario
Acoma
Polychrome bowl with black-and-white mountain sheep and geometric design

Verda Toledo
Jemez
Black and white canteen with Mimbres animal and geometric design

Marie Z. Chino
Acoma


The Mimbres Mogollon culture was named for the Mimbres River in the Gila Mountains. They lived in the area from about 850 CE to about 1150 CE. Substantial depopulation of the area occurred but there were many small surviving populations. Over time, these melted into the surrounding cultures with many families moving north to Acoma, Zuni and Hopi while others moved south to Casas Grande and Paquime.

The time period from about 850 CE to about 1000 CE is classed the Late Basketmaker III period. The time period was characterized by the evolution of square and rectangular pithouses with plastered floors and walls. Ceremonial structures were generally dug deep into the ground. Local forms of pottery have been classified as early Mimbres black-on-white (formerly Boldface Black-on-White), textured plainware and red-on-cream.

The Classic Mimbres phase (1000 CE to 1150 CE) was marked with the construction of larger buildings in clusters of communities around open plazas. Some constructions had up to 150 rooms. Most groupings of rooms included a ceremonial room, although smaller square or rectangular underground kivas with roof openings were also being used. Classic Mimbres settlements were located in areas with well-watered floodplains available, suitable for the growing of maize, squash and beans. The villages were limited in size by the ability of the local area to grow enough food to support the village.

Pottery produced in the Mimbres region is distinct in style and decoration. Early Mimbres black-on-white pottery was primarily decorated with bold geometric designs, although some early pieces show human and animal figures. Over time the rendering of figurative and geometric designs grew more refined, sophisticated and diverse, suggesting community prosperity and a rich ceremonial life. Classic Mimbres black-on-white pottery is also characterized by bold geometric shapes but done with refined brushwork and very fine linework. Designs may include figures of one or multiple humans, animals or other shapes, bounded by either geometric decorations or by simple rim bands. A common figure on a Mimbres pot is the turkey, another is the thunderbird. There are also a lot of different fish depicted, some are species found in the Gulf of California.

A lot of Mimbres bowls (with kill holes) have been found in archaeological excavations but most Mimbres pottery shows evidence it was actually used in day-to-day life and wasn't produced just for burial purposes.

There's a lot of speculation as to what happened to the Mimbres people as their countryside was rapidly depopulated after about 1150 CE. The people of Isleta, Acoma and Laguna find ancient Mimbres pot shards on their pueblo lands, indicating that pottery designs from the Mimbres River area migrated north. There are similar designs found on pot shards littering the ground around Casas Grandes and Paquime near Mata Ortiz and Nuevo Casas Grandes in northern Mexico. Other than where they went, the only reasons offered for why they left involve at least small scale climate change. The usual comment is "drought" but drought could have been brought on by the eruption of a volcano on the other side of the planet, or a small change in the El Nino-La Nina schedule. Whatever it was that started the outflow of people, it began in the Mimbres River area and spread outward from there. Excavations in the Eastern Mimbres region (nearer to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) have shown that the people adapted to new circumstances and that adaptation itself moved them closer into alignment with surrounding tribes and cultures. Eventually they just kind of merged into the background, although the groups that moved south and built up Paquime and Casas Grandes seem to have lost a war and survivors migrated to the west, to a land a bit more hospitable for them.


Black and white canteen with a bighorn ram's head spout and Mimbres ram and geometric design

Michael Kanteena
Laguna
Black and white flat jar with Mimbres geometric design

Paula Estevan
Acoma
Polychrome jar with Mimbres rabbit and geometric design, inside and out

Franklin Tenorio
Santo Domingo
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Belen Tapia 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.


    Belen Tapia & Ernest Tapia
    • Leonard Tapia & Romancita Gutierrez
    • Anita L. Suazo & Joseph Suazo
    • Paul Tapia
    • Frank Tapia & Mae Tapia
    • Bennie Tapia & Gail Gutierrez
    • Anna Archuleta & Fidel Archuleta
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