Double shoulder black jar with 4 bear par imprints on neck
 made by Virginia Ebelacker of Santa Clara
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Virginia Ebelacker, Santa Clara, Double shoulder black jar with 4 bear par imprints on neck
Virginia Ebelacker
Santa Clara
$ 7800
plscg9100
Double shoulder black jar with 4 bear par imprints on neck
11 in H by 11 1/4 in Dia
Condition: Very good with a small chip, (see image 3) and a small rub, (see image 4)
Signature: Virginia Ebelacker Santa Clara Pueblo

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Virginia Ebelacker

Santa Clara
Bear paw imprints in a polished black jar
 

Virginia Ebelacker was born to Alcario and Margaret Tafoya in 1925. She grew up among some of the finest potters Santa Clara Pueblo has ever known. Her father taught her the fundamentals of design while her aunt (Christina Naranjo) taught Virginia and her cousin, Mary Cain, to create their first pottery figures.

With that illustrious beginning, Virginia finished her schooling and went to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a highly skilled technician doing research work in metallurgy and plastics, eventually earning awards for her contributions to the scientific study of both. When she went home at night she relaxed by painting and creating pottery and jewelry.

Virginia met Richard Ebelacker (a Dutch scientist) at the Lab and, in his words, "Love flowed over those test tubes." They were married not long after and Richard, their first son, was born in 1946.

Virginia learned to make large pottery jars when she was young and she passed that skill on to her sons, James and Richard. Both became award-winning potters who made large black jars and red jars throughout their careers.

Virginia was known for her large carved redware and blackware jars, water jars, vases, bowls and storage jars, as well as her paintings, jewelry and leatherwork.

Over the years Virginia earned many ribbons and awards for her pottery: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Place, Honorable Mention and several Best of Divisions. She won the Maria-Popovi Da Award for Best in Traditional Pottery at the 1976 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market and the overall Award for Excellence at Indian Market in 1985.

Virginia passed on in 2001.

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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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Margaret Tafoya 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.


Serafina Tafoya (1863-1949) & Geronimo Tafoya
Her children who became potters:
  • Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001) & Alcario Tafoya (d. 1995)
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Mary Ester Archuleta (1942-2010)
    • Jennie Trammel (1929-2010)
    • Virginia Ebelacker (1925-2001)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • James Ebelacker (b. 1960)
      • Richard Ebelacker (1946-2010) & Yvonne Ortiz
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Jason Ebelacker
        • Jerome Ebelacker
    • Lee Tafoya (1926-1996) & Betty Tafoya
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Linda Oyenque Tafoya (b. 1962)
    • Mela Youngblood (1931-1990)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Nancy Youngblood (b. 1955)
      • Nathan Youngblood (b. 1954)
    • Toni Roller (b. 1935)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Cliff Roller (b. 1961)
      • Jeff Roller (b. 1963)
        His descendants who became potters:
        • Jordan Roller
        • Ryan Roller
      • Susan Roller (b. 1955)
      • Tim Roller (b. 1959)
    • LuAnn Tafoya (b. 1938)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Michele Tafoya Browning (b. 1960)
      • Daryl Duane Whitegeese (b. 1964)
    • Shirley Cactus Blossom Tafoya (b. 1947)
  • Christina Naranjo (1891-1980)
    Her descendants who became potters:
    • Mary Cain (1916-2010)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Billy Cain (1950-2005)
      • Joy Cain (b. 1947)
      • Linda Cain (b. 1949)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Autumn Borts (b. 1967)
        • Tammy Garcia (b. 1969)
    • Teresita Naranjo (1919-1999)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Stella Chavarria (b. 1939)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Denise Chavarria (b. 1959)
        • Joey Chavarria (1964-1987)
        • Sunday Chavarria (b. 1963)
    • Cecilia Naranjo
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Sharon Naranjo Garcia (b. 1951)
      • Judy Tafoya (b. 1962) & Lincoln Tafoya (b. 1954)
    • Mida Tafoya (b. 1931)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Sherry Tafoya (b. 1956)
      • Phillis & Mathew Tafoya
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Marlin & Phyllis Hemlock
      • Ethel Vigil
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Kimberly Garcia
  • Camilio Tafoya (1902-1995) & Agapita Silva (1904-1959)
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Joe Tafoya & Lucy Year Flower (1935-2012)
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Myra Little Snow (b. 1962)
    • Joseph Lonewolf (1932-2014) & Katheryn
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Greg Lonewolf (b. 1952)
      • Rosemary Apple Blossom Lonewolf (b. 1954) & Paul Speckled Rock (1952-2017)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Adam Speckled Rock
      • Susan Romero
    • Grace Medicine Flower (b. 1938)
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