Large red and brown seed pot carved with dragonfly, kiva step and geometric design
 made by Autumn Borts of Santa Clara
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Autumn Borts, Santa Clara, Large red and brown seed pot carved with dragonfly, kiva step and geometric design
Autumn Borts
Santa Clara
$ 4800
lfscd9301
Large red and brown seed pot carved with dragonfly, kiva step and geometric design
9 1/2 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Autumn Borts Santa Clara Pueblo, NM
Date Created: 1999
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Autumn Borts-Medlock

Santa Clara

Red and brown seed pot carved with kiva step, dragonfly and geometric design
 

The daughter of Linda Cain, granddaughter of Mary Cain and great-granddaughter of Christina Naranjo, Autumn Borts was born in Southern California in 1967. Her sister, Tammy Garcia, was born there 2 years later. The family returned to Santa Clara Pueblo in 1971.

Growing up in a family of famous potters, Autumn was exposed to working with clay early in life. While her mother and grandmother created vases, bowls, jars and plates from clay, Autumn was nearby sculpting animal figures and nativity scenes. She recounts how one or the other of them would now and then reach in and show her how to do something or how to fix something. Eventually, under their watchful eyes she moved into working with clay coils, and using clay that she had collected and prepared herself.

Autumn says her mother taught her to polish with a smooth river stone and to carve the ancient Tewa shapes of kiva steps, rain clouds, bear paws, feathers, lightning bolts and water serpents. Then her family's older women taught Autumn how to fire her pieces. Autumn says she is guided by their voices still: "All of this knowledge I hold very dear to my heart, because it was passed down to me from the women in my family. The clay gives me energy, and I'm grateful to be part of this tradition."

By the time she was 13, Autumn was spending her summers in Los Angeles amid surfers, Disneyland, Hollywood and Walt Disney Productions while the rest of the year was spent much closer to the real world, at Santa Clara Pueblo. Between the two influences, she was soon combining commercial art and art deco with traditional Tewa forms and designs.

Autumn has participated in many shows and exhibits over the years:

Exhibits

  • 2002, American Craft Museum - Changing Hands: Art without Reservation
  • 2002, Peabody Essex Museum - Indian Market: New Directions in Southwestern Native American Pottery
  • Cincinnati Art Museum - Sing the Clay: Pueblo Pottery of the Southwest Yesterday and Today
  • Shows

  • Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, 2004, 2006-2010, 2012
  • Originals Juried and Invitational Exhibit of NM Women Artists, 2005
  • SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, 1996-1998, 2001-2004, 2006-2014, 2018
  • Eight Northern Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show, 1991, 1998, 2000-2003
  • Blue Rain Gallery's Yearly Show, 1993-2001
  • Some of the Awards Autumn has Earned

  • Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Collectors Choice Award, 2001
  • O'odham Tash, Casa Grande, 2000
  • SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, 2001-2004, 2006-2010, 2012, 2014, 2015
  • Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair and Market, 2004, 2006-2009, 2012
  • 2019 - Best of Division, Traditional burnished black or red ware; incised, painted or carved, Santa Fe Indian Market
  • 2019 - 1st Place, Carved or incised, black or red, over 8 inches, Santa Fe Indian Market

Autumn's favorite designs to carve include dragonflies, hummingbirds and flowers. As a young girl she remembers, "I was completely mesmerized by the beauty of the feathers adorning the regalia of the dancers at Santa Clara Pueblo. I used to wonder where we got these feathers because I’ve never seen a parrot in Santa Clara Pueblo." A bit of research showed that parrots had been carried north over the ancient trade routes to Chaco Canyon, where indigenous traders from Mexico and Central America traded them for products produced by the Ancestral Puebloans of the Chaco Canyon area more than 750 years ago.

Autumn's work was featured at the 2019 Crocker Museum exhibition entitled Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries and at the 2019 Yale University Art Gallery exhibition entitled Pueblo Women's Ceramics from the Patti Skigen Collection.

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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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Seed Pots

Acoma, Hopi, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara
Seed pot jar
Sandra Victorino
Acoma Pueblo
Micaceous black Hopi seed pot
Preston Duwyenie
Hopi
Santa Clara Pueblo seed pot
Camilio Tafoya
Santa Clara Pueblo
 

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.

 
Seed pot with sgraffito design and silver lid

Debra Duwyenie
Santa Clara Pueblo
Jemez Pueblo seed pot

Dominique Toya
Jemez Pueblo
Acoma Pueblo seed pot

Lucy Lewis
Acoma Pueblo
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Christina Naranjo 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.


    Christina Naranjo (1891-1980) & Jose Victor Naranjo (1895-1942)
    • Mary Cain (1916-2010) & Bill Cain
      • Billy Cain (b. 1950)
      • Joy Cain (b. 1947)
      • Linda Cain (b. 1949)
        • Autumn Borts (b. 1967)
        • Tammy Garcia (b. 1969)
      • Tina Diaz (b. 1946)
    • Cecilia Naranjo
      • Sharon Naranjo Garcia (b. 1951)
      • Judy (b. 1962) & Lincoln Tafoya (b. 1954)
    • Teresita Naranjo (1919-1999) & Joe Naranjo
      • Stella Chavarria (b. 1939) & Loretto Chavarria
        • Denise Chavarria (b. 1959)
        • Loretta Sunday Chavarria (b. 1963)
    • Mida Tafoya (b. 1931)
      • Ethel Vigil
        • Kimberly Garcia (b. 1978)
      • Mike Tafoya
      • Phyllis Tafoya
      • Sherry Tafoya (b. 1956)
      Her adopted children who became potters:
      • Phyllis & Marlin Hemlock (Seneca)
      • Lincoln Tafoya (b. 1954)
      • Mathew Tafoya (b. 1953)
    • Eddie and Gracie Naranjo
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