Black and green jar with avanyu design and micaceous slip made by Martha Appleleaf of San Ildefonso
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Martha Appleleaf, San Ildefonso, Black and green jar with avanyu design and micaceous slip
Martha Appleleaf
San Ildefonso
$ 1200
cjsi2k106
Black and green jar with avanyu design and micaceous slip
6.25 in L by 6.25 in W by 6.5 in H
Condition: Very good
Signature: Martha Appleleaf, with apple hallmark



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San Ildefonso Pueblo

Sacred Black Mesa at San Ildefonso Pueblo
Black Mesa at San Ildefonso Pueblo

San Ildefonso Pueblo is located about twenty miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, mostly on the eastern bank of the Rio Grande. Although their ancestry has been traced as far back as abandoned pueblos in the Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado, the most recent ancestral home of the people of San Ildefonso is in the area of Bandelier National Monument, the prehistoric villages of Tyuonyi, Otowi, Navawi and Tsankawi specifically. The area of Tsankawi abuts the reservation on its northwest side.

The San Ildefonso name was given to the village in 1617 when a mission church was established. Before then the village was called Powhoge, "where the water cuts through" (in Tewa). Today's pueblo was established as long ago as the 1300's and when the Spanish arrived in 1540 they estimated the village population at about 2,000.

That village mission was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to reclaim the San Ildefonso area in 1694, he found virtually the entire tribe on top of nearby Black Mesa. After an extended siege the two sides negotiated a treaty and the people returned to their village. However, the next 250 years were not good for them. Finally, the Spanish swine flu pandemic of 1918 reduced the tribe's population to about 90. The tribe's population has increased to more than 600 today but the only economic activity available for most on the pueblo involves the creation of art in one form or another. The only other jobs are off-pueblo. San Ildefonso's population is small compared to neighboring Santa Clara Pueblo, but the pueblo maintains its own religious traditions and ceremonial feast days.

San Ildefonso has produced fine ceramic art since early pre-Columbian times. The pueblo is most known for being the home of the most famous Pueblo Indian potter, Maria Martinez. Many other excellent potters have produced quality pottery from this pueblo, too, among them: Blue Corn, Tonita and Juan Roybal, Dora Tse Pe and Rose Gonzales. Of course the descendants of Maria Martinez are still important pillars of San Ildefonso's pottery tradition. Maria's influence reached far and wide, so far and wide that even Juan Quezada, founder of the Mata Ortiz pottery renaissance in Chihuahua, Mexico, came to San Ildefonso to learn from her.

Map showing the location of San Ildefonso Pueblo

For more info:
at Wikipedia
official website
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, by Daniel Gibson
Photo is in the public domain

Micaceous Clay Pottery

Golden micaceous prayer jar with fire clouds

Angie Yazzie
Taos
Micaceous black sculptural piece

Christine McHorse
Navajo
A lidded golden micaceous bean pot

Clarence Cruz
San Juan/Ohkay Owingeh

Micaceous clay pots are the only truly functional Pueblo pottery still being made. Some special micaceous pots can be used directly on the stove or in the oven for cooking. Some are also excellent for food storage. Some people say the best beans and chili they ever tasted were cooked in a micaceous bean pot. Whether you use them for cooking or storage or as additions to your collection of fine art, micaceous clay pots are a beautiful result of centuries of Pueblo pottery making.

Between Taos and Picuris Pueblos is US Hill. Somewhere on US Hill is a mica mine that has been in use for centuries. Excavations of ancient ruins and historic homesteads across the Southwest have found utensils and cooking pots that were made of this clay hundreds of years ago.

Not long ago, though, the making of micaceous pottery was a dying art. There were a couple potters at Taos and at Picuris still making utilitarian pieces but that was it. Then Lonnie Vigil felt the call, returned to Nambe Pueblo from Washington DC and learned to make the pottery he became famous for. His success brought others into the micaceous art marketplace.

Micaceous pots have a beautiful shimmer that comes from the high mica content in the clay. Mica is a composite mineral of aluminum and/or magnesium and various silicates. The Pueblos were using large sheets of translucent mica to make windows prior to the Spaniards arriving. It was the Spanish who brought a technique for making glass. There are eight mica mining areas in northern New Mexico with 54 mines spread among them. Most micaceous clay used in the making of modern Pueblo pottery comes from several different mines near Taos Pueblo.

As we understand it, potters Robert Vigil and Clarence Cruz have said there are two basic kinds of micaceous clay that most potters use. The first kind is extremely micaceous with mica in thick sheets. While the clay and the mica it contains can be broken down to make pottery, that same clay has to be used to form the entire final product. It can be coiled and scraped but that final product will always be thicker, heavier and rougher on the surface. This is the preferred micaceous clay for making utilitarian pottery and utensils. It is essentially waterproof and conducts heat evenly.

The second kind is the preferred micaceous clay for most non-functional fine art pieces. It has less of a mica content with smaller embedded pieces of mica. It is more easily broken down by the potters and more easily made into a slip to cover a base made of other clay. Even as a slip, the mica serves to bond and strengthen everything it touches. The finished product can be thinner and have a smoother surface. As a slip, it can also be used to paint over other colors of clay for added effect. However, these micaceous pots may be a bit more water resistant than other Pueblo pottery but they are not utilitarian and will not survive utilitarian use.

While all micaceous clay from the area of Taos turns golden when fired, it can also be turned black by firing in an oxygen reduction atmosphere. Black fire clouds are also a common element on golden micaceous pottery.

Mica is a relatively common component of clay, it's just not as visible in most. Potters at Hopi, Zuni and Acoma have produced mica-flecked pottery in other colors using finely powdered mica flakes. Some potters at San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Jemez and San Juan use micaceous slips to add sparkle to their pieces.

Potters from the Jicarilla Apache Nation collect their micaceous clay closer to home in the Jemez Mountains. The makeup of that clay is different and it fires to a less golden/orange color than does Taos clay. Some clay from the Picuris area fires less golden/orange, too. Christine McHorse, a Navajo potter who married into Taos Pueblo, uses various micaceous clays on her pieces depending on what the clay asks of her in the flow of her creating.

There is nothing in the makeup of a micaceous pot that would hinder a good sgraffito artist or light carver from doing her or his thing. There are some who have learned to successfully paint on a micaceous surface. The undecorated sparkly surface in concert with the beauty of simple shapes is a real testament to the artistry of the micaceous potter.


Double shouldered golden micaceous jar with a flared rim and fire clouds

Lonnie Vigil
Nambe
A micaceous black Corn Maiden figure wearing a tablita

Robert Vigil
Nambe
White seed pot with a sculpted Shifting Sands design surface with tiny flecks of mica and an inlaid stone

Preston Duwyenie
Hopi

Maria Martinez 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.

    Cipriana Peña (c. 1810-)
    • Santana Peña (1846-) & Antonio Domingo Peña (1841-)
      • Nicolasa Peña Montoya (1863-1904) & Juan Cruz Montoya
        • Tonita Martinez Roybal (1892-1945) & Alfredo Montoya
        • Isabel Montoya (1898-1996) & Benjamin Atencio
          • Angelita Atencio Sanchez (1927-1993) & Santiago Sanchez
            • Sandra Sanchez Chaparro
          • Gilbert Atencio (1930-1995)
          • Tony Atencio (1928-)
          • Helen Gutierrez (1935-1993) & Frank Gutierrez (Santa Clara)
            • Carol & James Gutierrez
            • Kathy Gutierrez Naranjo & Ernest J. Naranjo
            • Rose Gutierrez
            • Geraldine Gutierrez Shije (1959-)
        • Rayita Montoya
        • Santana Montoya & Antonio Vigil
          • Lupita Vigil Martinez (1918-) & Anselmo Martinez (1909-1965)
      • Reyes Peña (d. 1909) & Tomas Montoya (d. 1914)
        • Desideria Montoya (1889-1982)
        • Maria Montoya Martinez (1887-1980) & Julian Martinez (1884-1943)
          • Adam Martinez (1903-2000) and Santana Roybal Martinez (1909-2002)
            • George Martinez (1943-) & Pauline Martinez (Santa Clara)(1950-)
              • Adam Martinez
              • Jesse Martinez
              • Jolene Martinez
            • Anita Martinez (d. 1992) & Pino Martinez
              • Barbara Tahn-Moo-Whe Gonzales (1947-) & Robert Gonzales
                • Aaron Gonzales (1971-)
                • Brandon Gonzales (1983-)
                • Cavan Gonzales (1970-)
                • Derek Gonzales (1986-)
              • Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez (1950-) & Gilbert Sanchez
                • Corrine Sanchez
                • Gilbert Abel Sanchez
                • Liana Sanchez
                • Wayland Sanchez
              • Evelyn Than-Povi Garcia
                • Myra Garcia
                  • Berlinda Garcia
              • Peter Pino
            • Viola Martinez/Sunset Cruz & Johnnie Cruz Sr.
              • Beverly Martinez (1960-1987)
              • Marvin Martinez (1964-) and Frances Martinez
                • Marvin Lee Martinez
              • Johnnie Cruz Jr. (1975-)
          • Popovi Da (1921-1971) & Anita Da
            • Tony Da (1940-2008)
        • Maximiliana Montoya (1885-1955) & Cresencio Martinez (1879-1918)
        • Juanita Vigil (1898-1933) & Romando Vigil (1902-1978)
          • Carmelita Vigil (1925-1999) & Nicholas Cata
            • Martha Appleleaf (1950-)
              • Erik Fender (1970-)
            • Gloria Maxey (d. 1999)
              • Angelina Maxey (1970-)
              • Jessie Maxey (1972-)
          • Carmelita Vigil (Dunlap) (1925-1999) & Carlos Dunlap (d. 1971)
            • Carlos Sunrise Dunlap (1958-1981)
            • Cynthia Star Flower Dunlap (1959-)
            • Jeannie Mountain Flower Dunlap (1953-)
            • Linda Dunlap (1955-)
      • Philomena Peña & Juan Gonzales & Ramona Sanchez (Robert's mother)
        • Robert Gonzales & Rose (Cata) Gonzales (San Juan)
          • Tse-Pe & Dora Tse-Pe (Zia)
            • Candace Tse-Pe
            • Gerri Tse-Pe
            • Irene Tse-Pe
          • Tse-Pe (1940-2000) & Jennifer Tse-Pe (Sisneros) (second wife, San Juan/Santa Clara)
        • Oqwa Pi (Abel Sanchez)(1899-1971) & Tomasena (Cata) Sanchez (1903-1985, Rose Gonzales' sister)
          • Skipped generation
            • Russell Sanchez (1966-)
        • Louis Wo-Peen Gonzales & Juanita Wo-Peen Gonzales (1909-1988)
          • Adelphia Martinez
          • Lorenzo Gonzales (adopted) (1922-1995)
          • Blue Corn (Crucita Calabaza - Lorenzo's sister) (1921-1999)
    • Tonita Peña (1847-c. 1910)
      • Anastacia Peña (c. 1876-)
        • Luisa Peña
      • Isabel Peña (c. 1881-) & Pasqual Martinez
        • Teracita Martinez
        • Petronella Martinez & Emiliano Abeyta (San Juan/Ohkay Owingeh)
          • Philopeta Martinez (1925-) & Patrick Torres
            • Elvis Torres (1960-)
          • Torivia Martinez

Some of the above info is drawn from Pueblo Indian Pottery, 750 Artist Biographies, by Gregory Schaaf, © 2000, Center for Indigenous Arts & Studies

Other info is derived from personal contacts with family members and through interminable searches of the Internet.