Dolores Curran

Santa Clara
Dolores Curran
Lidded red jar incised with feather and geometric design

Dolores Curran was born in 1954 to potters Ursulita and Alfred Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo. She is the granddaughter of Marie Suazo, sister of Geri Naranjo and aunt of Kevin Naranjo.

Dolores worked for three years as a bookkeeper for the State of New Mexico after graduating from the University of New Mexico. After her daughter Ursula was born, she turned to making pottery full time so she'd have time to spend with her daughter. Dolores was married to Alvin Curran from San Juan Pueblo for more than seventeen years and the cross-pollination of San Juan and Santa Clara pottery styles has had a significant influence on her own style.

A master potter, she creates her work in the traditional way: gathering all the raw materials she needs from the Santa Clara Pueblo area and firing her pottery outdoors using cedar and piñon pine in a tin firebox. Well known for her redware and her traditional black-on-black etched pots, she uses traditional Santa Clara elements of design like the water serpent (avanyu), feathers, clouds and kiva steps. Her extraordinary attention to detail, obvious in her stone polishing and the decorations on the back of her plates (in addition to the front) and painting each pot at least three times to achieve the required degree of opacity are among the elements that make her pieces so highly sought after. Much of her work is sold before she even completes it.

The detail of the painting on her miniatures is simply extraordinary, especially when you know that she never outlines the design before painting it. "I work at night with just a lamp," she says. "I like the silence and like to keep everything dark around me so that I can concentrate only on the piece I'm working on.....I develop each design individually as I go along. I don't have a portfolio because I don't want to copy my own designs. Everything I do is more or less one of a kind."

Dolores won Best of Division for one of her creations at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1993, which means her piece was judged to be the finest of all the hundreds of pots submitted to the juried competition that year. Dolores has also earned many 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place ribbons plus ribbons for Best in Miniatures.

Dolores tells us her favorite pieces to make are plates and jars. She also enjoys working with several different shades of black, matte and polished. She also likes working in shades of red with a white or buff slip. She says her inspiration comes out of her own imagination: she likes to doodle and she's seen some interesting designs come out of that.

In her words: "I'm a home body but I love to go to Eagle Nest and Red River. I would love to live up there." And: "My grandchildren are my greatest joy."

She signs her work: "Dolores Curran, Santa Clara Pueblo".

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