Red bowl carved with stylized avanyu design
 made by Nathan Youngblood of Santa Clara
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Nathan Youngblood, Santa Clara, Red bowl carved with stylized avanyu design
Nathan Youngblood
Santa Clara
$ 1900
xxscl9438
Red bowl carved with stylized avanyu design
2 1/2 in H by 4 3/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Nathan Youngblood
Date Created: 1977
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Nathan Youngblood

Santa Clara
Geometric design carved into a black on black jar, by Nathan Youngblood
 

Nathan Youngblood was born at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1954. His parents were Mela (1931-1991) and Walt Youngblood. Due to his father's military career, the family moved often. Eventually, his father was sent to Vietnam (never to return) and the rest of the family returned home to Santa Clara Pueblo. It was at Santa Clara that Nathan learned to make pottery by watching his grandmother, Margaret Tafoya, and his mother. Margaret and Mela showed Nathan how to make and polish the pots while his grandfather, Alcario, showed him traditional Santa Clara designs and how to carve them.

He produced his first two pieces (a tiny bowl and a clay peace pipe) in 1970 and entered them in the Juvenile Division of the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonials pottery competition that year. The tiny bowl won a second place ribbon, the peace pipe won a first place ribbon.

Nathan dedicated himself full time to making pottery in 1976 and apprenticed himself to his grandparents, Margaret and Alcario. It was an intense apprenticeship as they taught him every aspect of the traditional pottery-making path: making, carving and firing. In those early years of his career, Nathan was focused on making larger vessels, highly polished, deeply carved and physically heavy. He was also focused on creating the classic Santa Clara shapes and designs he'd been taught. By the mid-1980's he moved into creating more complex historic and prehistoric Santa Clara shapes and designs. Those more complex shapes forced a rethinking of the designs he used and he moved into carving less linear flows that incorporated more of the whole surface of a vessel. In the early 1990's he began incorporating some of the elements he loved in Asian ceramics into his pieces and that opened the door yet further to a mix of traditional and contemporary on the same piece. He also dreamed of making a Pueblo form of "Faberge egg" and experimented long and hard to create that. Incorporating three separate pieces and involving three firings, that created a tremendous amount of risk in the project. He successfully produced the first one in 1998 and said, "It is something I have dreamed of being able to make for 15 years, but until now was technically unable to create this piece. It may not speak to the traditionalist, but it had to be made."

His grandmother, Margaret, passed on in 2001 and in her honor he began to re-create many of her classic shapes, carving them with some of his own more contemporary designs. He also designed a line of jewelry and glass in those years, projects that allowed him to focus on how his imagery translated to other media.

Now he generally makes bowls, jars, vases, canteens and plates in red, black and/or tan. He both carves and paints, often on the same piece. His patterns have become increasingly complex, intricate and delicate over time. While many of his pieces have a contemporary look and feel, he always creates everything in the traditional way.

He has become known for his creative designs and the outstanding quality of his work. Often winning both 1st and 2nd Place ribbons, Nathan has won more than 140 awards for his pottery, including 40 awards at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market. His work has been exhibited in galleries from Scottsdale, Arizona to New York City. His work has also been shown at the White House, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the Gilcrease Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Museum of Natural History in Denver, Colorado and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

Over the years Nathan also served on the boards of the Southwestern Association of Indian Art, the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

Nancy Youngblood is Nathan's sister.

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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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