Large black jar carved with an avanyu and geometric design
 made by Elizabeth Naranjo of Santa Clara
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Elizabeth Naranjo, Santa Clara, Large black jar carved with an avanyu and geometric design
Elizabeth Naranjo
Santa Clara
$ 6500
csscg9325
Large black jar carved with an avanyu and geometric design
16 3/4 in H by 12 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Elizabeth Naranjo Santa Clara Pueblo

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Elizabeth Naranjo

Santa Clara
A large black jar carved with an avanyu, feather and geometric design

Elizabeth Naranjo was born to Pablita and Jose Chavarria of Santa Clara Pueblo in 1929. Like her sisters Florence Browning, Stella Chavarria, Reycita Naranjo, Clara Shije and Mary Singer, Elizabeth learned the traditional art of making pottery from their mother. Elizabeth was known for her large, black, deeply carved wedding vases and jars, but she did make many smaller pieces (including miniatures) and some black on black pieces with painted designs. Her favorite designs included the avanyu (the mythical Tewa water serpent), clouds, feathers and kiva steps.

The One Space/Three Visions tri-cultural exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum in Albuquerque, NM, in 1979 included some of Elizabeth's work. As a potter of the Chavarria family, Elizabeth was also included in 1994's Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery. Elizabeth was an exhibitor at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market from 1981 through 1999 and earned several awards for her work:

  • 1981 - 2nd Place
  • 1984 - Best of Division, traditional incised, large black carved wedding vase; 1st Place, jar over 8 inches tall; 1st Place, wedding vase
  • 1986 - 1st Place, Carved jar over 8 inches tall; 1st Place, wedding vase
  • 1989 - 1st Place, wedding vase
  • 1990 - 1st Place, carved wedding vase; 3rd Place, carved bowl over 8 inches in diameter
  • 1991 - 3rd Place, carved jar over 8 inches
  • 1992 - 2nd Place, incised jar over 8 inces

Elizabeth passed on in 2017.

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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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Chavarria 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.


    Pablita Chavarria (1914-1979) & Jose M. Chavarria
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Florence Browning (b. 1931)
    • Stella Chavarria (Tafoya) & Loretto Chavarria
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Denise Chavarria (b. 1959)
      • Joey Chavarria (1964-1987)
      • Loretta Sunday Chavarria (b. 1963)
    • Elizabeth Naranjo (1929-2017) & Ernest Naranjo
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Frances Chavarria
      • Betty Naranjo
      • Ernest J. Naranjo
      • Regina Naranjo
      • Yvette Naranjo
    • Reycita Naranjo (1926-2003)
    • Clara Shije (b. 1924)
    • Mary Singer (b. 1936) & Lawrence Singer
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Anna Bailon (b. 1961)
      • Fergus Singer
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