Large polychrome jar with flared opening, bird, flower, and geometric design with micaceous slip details made by Thomas Tenorio of Santo Domingo
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Thomas Tenorio, Santo Domingo, Large polychrome jar with flared opening, bird, flower, and geometric design with micaceous slip details
Thomas Tenorio
Santo Domingo
$ SOLD
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Large polychrome jar with flared opening, bird, flower, and geometric design with micaceous slip details
10.5 in L by 10.5 in W by 16.25 in H
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Thomas Tenorio Kewa, NM
Date Created: 2022


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Every box is required. We will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you!

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Thomas Tenorio

Santo Domingo
Thomas Tenorio
Traditional Santo Domingo geometric design on a tall neck polychrome jar
 


Born in 1963 at Santo Domingo Pueblo, Thomas Tenorio started making pots in the early 1990’s. He grew up thinking he came from a family of heshi makers but found out his maternal great-grandmother had made traditional Santo Domingo pots and sold them by the side of the road in the 1940’s. Realizing that these days only a few families continue to make Santo Domingo-style pottery he was inspired to learn so that he could help keep the tradition alive.

Thomas tells us he is a self-taught potter: "Nobody showed me how. I learned on my own through a lot of trial and error." He does credit Kenneth Chapman’s book The Pottery of Santo Domingo Pueblo for providing him with examples of old Santo Domingo designs.

Thomas uses local Santo Domingo clay which he cleans, mixes, hand-coils, shapes, decorates and then fires outdoors in an open flame, just as his ancestors did for hundreds of years before him. He learned to protect his pots during the firing, surrounding them with a metal cage so no fuel touches them and burns the pot. It took him years to figure out the complicated chemistries of the buff slip and bee weed paint (made from a wild spinach that grows in New Mexico).

Thomas’ greatest pleasure comes through recognition of his current work. While he enjoys the process, he "gets lost in the painting and could sit for hours and hours and paint." He especially loves painting the swirls of the water, the wind and the corn. He also loves painting his bowls, especially if they contain fish or the traditional Santo Domingo bird. He is exploring new shapes and designs on his more recent work but he isn't forgetting the traditional shapes and designs of Kewa on his huge pots.

Thomas read somewhere that he was a miniature potter. We laughed when he told us that because he is not a short person and some of his more recent pieces have been almost as big as he is. When we asked him where he gets his inspiration he replied, "My inspiration comes from my traditional faith at home and from nature".

Thomas often participates in the Heard Museum Guild Indian Art Fair (where he earned the 2012 1st Place ribbon for Traditional Painted Pottery). He earned the same 1st Place award at the Heard in 2007 and has earned 1st and 2nd Place ribbons at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 2015, 2014, 2011 and 2010.

In 2013 Thomas had an extremely successful one-man show at Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery where he did an outdoor firing for some of our best customers.

Thomas signs his pottery "Thomas Tenorio, Kewa, NM" and sometimes adds the year.

His pottery can be found in the collections of:

  • The White House, Washington, DC
  • Rockefeller Museum, New York City
  • Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC
  • Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Santa Fe, NM
  • Pueblo Grande Museum, Phoenix, AZ
  • Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA

 

Santo Domingo Pueblo

The Mission Church at Santo Domingo Pueblo
Santo Domingo Pueblo Mission Church

Santo Domingo Pueblo is located on the east bank of the Rio Grande about half-way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Historically, the people of Santo Domingo were among the most active of Pueblo traders. The pueblo also has a reputation of being ultra traditional, probably due, at least in part, to the longevity of the pueblo's pottery styles. Some of today's popular designs have changed very little since the 1700s.

In pre-Columbian times, traders from Santo Domingo were trading turquoise (from mines in the Cerrillos Hills) and hand-made heishe beads as far away as central Mexico. Many artisans in the pueblo still work in the old ways and produce wonderful silver and turquoise jewelry and heishe decorations.

Like the people of nearby San Felipe and Cochiti, the people of Santo Domingo speak Keres and trace their ancestry back to villages established in the Pajarito Plateau area in the 1400's. Like the other Rio Grande pueblos, Santo Domingo rose up against the Spanish oppressors in 1680, following Alonzo Catiti as he led the Keres-speaking pueblos and worked with Popé (of San Juan Pueblo) to stop the Spanish atrocities. However, when Spanish Governor Antonio Otermin returned to the area in 1681, he found Santo Domingo deserted and ordered it burned. The pueblo residents had fled to a nearby mountain stronghold and when Don Diego de Vargas returned to Nuevo Mexico in 1692, he attacked that mountain fortress and burned it, too. Catiti died in that battle and Keres opposition to the Spanish crumbled with his death. The survivors of that battle fled, some to Acoma, some to fledgling Laguna, some to the Hopi mesas. Over time most of them returned to Santo Domingo.

In the 1790s Santo Domingo accepted an influx of refugees from the Galisteo Basin area as they fled the near-constant attacks of Apache, Comanche, Ute and Navajo raiders in that area. Today's main Santo Domingo village was founded about 1886.

In 1598 Santo Domingo was the site of the first gathering of 38 pueblo governors by Don Juan de Oñaté to try to force them to swear allegiance to the crown of Spain. Today, the All Indian Pueblo Council (consisting of the nineteen remaining pueblo's governors and an executive staff) gathers at Santo Domingo for their first meeting every year, to continue what is now the oldest annual political gathering in America. During the time of the Spanish occupation Santo Domingo served as the headquarters of the Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico and religious trials were held there during the Spanish Inquisition.

Today, the people of Santo Domingo number around 4,500, with about two-thirds of them living on the reservation. The pottery traditions of the pueblo almost died out after the railroads arrived and many Santo Domingos went to work laying tracks. Even today many Santo Domingo men work as firefighters for the US Forest Service in fire season and ply their artistic talents during the rest of the year.

Potter Robert Tenorio began working to revive the Santo Domingo pottery tradition in the early 1970s. His influence can be found among many of today's Santo Domingo potters, even if they say he stimulated them to learn on their own.

While today's Santo Domingo pottery is known for designs described as simple geometrics, another outstanding feature is boldness: the lines are thick and well-defined.

As religious leaders forbid the representation of human figures as well as other sacred designs on pottery made for commercial purposes, birds, fish and flowers are common design motifs. Depictions of mammals are rarely seen. Another typical Santo Domingo style is to paint in the negative, meaning cover the pot in panels of big swatches of black and red so that only a few lines of the cream slip show through.

Map showing the location of Santo Domingo Pueblo

For more info:
at Wikipedia
official site
Pueblos of the Rio Grande, Daniel Gibson, ISBN-13:978-1-887896-26-9, Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2001
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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