Paul Naranjo

Santa Clara

Born into Santa Clara Pueblo in 1957, Paul Naranjo grew up surrounded by some of the finest traditional indigenous potters on Earth. His father, Raymond Naranjo, was known for his ceramic animal figures and his ceramic models of Puye Pueblo. Paul specialized in nature and wildlife sgraffito designs on brownware pottery.

There's not a lot of information about Paul's life but he did submit pieces for judging at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market and earned a number of prestigious awards for his work:

  • In 1988 he earned a 3rd Place ribbon for sgraffito design.
  • In 1989 he earned a 2nd Place ribbon for a miniature black piece with sgraffito decoration.
  • In 1990 he had a really good year, earning a Best of Division ribbon for non-traditional pottery (using new forms) made using traditional materials and techniques, and a 1st Place ribbon for sgraffito style without stones on any color except black.
  • In 1991 he earned a 2nd Place ribbon for a black piece with sgraffito decoration and no stones, and another 2nd Place ribbon for sgraffito design without stones on any color except black.
  • In 1992 he earned a 3rd Place ribbon for sgraffito decoration without stones on a black or black/two-tone piece.

Paul passed his knowledge on to both his children, Alana and Luciano. Alana even participated in Santa Fe Indian Market in 1991 with her father, earning a 2nd Place ribbon for an animal figure made by a student age 12 and under. Kevin Naranjo worked with Paul a bit and tells us his graffito style was strongly inspired by Paul and by Paul's sister Marian. Sadly, Paul passed on in 2002.

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
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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

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - - All Rights Reserved

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Paul Naranjo, Santa_Clara, Miniatureredjarwithsgraffitobuffalo,landscapeandgeometricdesign
Paul Naranjo
Santa Clara
$ 225
Miniature red jar with sgraffito buffalo, landscape and geometric design
2 in H by 1 3/4 in Dia
Condition: Very good with a small rub
Signature: Paul Naranjo Santa Clara

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - - All Rights Reserved