Blue Corn

San Ildefonso

Blue Corn (1921-1999) was a potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo. She was born Crucita Calabaza, the name Blue Corn was given to her by one of Maria Martinez' sisters during her San Ildefonso naming ceremony.

Blue Corn made her first piece of pottery at the age of three. She said her grandmother told her, "Your hands were made for pottery." That was a prophetic statement because Blue Corn made pots for nearly her whole life.

She was born in that time when many Native American children were being educated in boarding schools. She was educated at the Santa Fe Indian School, about 25 miles from home. Both her parents died while she was away at school and when she graduated, she was sent to live with relatives in southern California. For a while she worked as a maid in a Beverly Hills mansion. Then she returned to New Mexico and married Santiago Calabazas, a Santo Domingo silversmith. In keeping with Pueblo tradition they lived at San Ildefonso. For a while Blue Corn worked as a housekeeper for J. Robert Oppenheimer, the famous nuclear physicist who was the founder and first Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. She began making pottery again after her first son, Joseph, was born.

Blue Corn was especially known for her polychrome designs on cream jars and plates. She and her husband spent several years experimenting with different techniques, forms, clays and colors. While she produced a significant number of redware and blackware pieces through the years, by the late 1960's she was emerging as a leader in the revival of polychrome pottery. She was known for highly polished white, cream and buff slips, which she said she produced by polishing very slowly. She also selected subtle colors of clay with which to paint her designs.

Santiago passed away in 1972 and Joseph took his place in helping her make her pots.

Blue Corn was known for making jars, plates, wedding vases, oval blackware lidded boxes and black-on-black owl figures. Her favorite designs included feathers, rain clouds, turtles and the avanyu (water serpent). She did demonstrations and exhibitions all around the country and participated in shows like the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market and the New Mexico State Fair, winning major awards at both. In 1981 she was awarded the 8th Annual Governor's Award, the highest artistic honor awarded by the State of New Mexico.

When she died Blue Corn had raised 10 children and they had given her 18 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She had also taught many people how to make pottery, including most of her own children. Some of them went on to become award-winning potters in their own right.

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

Sacred Black Mesa
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.

San Ildefonso Pueblo location map

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

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

Polychromebowlwithanavanyuandgeometricdesign,SpecialAwardRibbonfromAliciaandDonBullock'sAmericanIndianShow,SantaMonica1975, Click or tap to see a larger version
See a larger version

Blue Corn, San_Ildefonso, Polychromebowlwithanavanyuandgeometricdesign,SpecialAwardRibbonfromAliciaandDonBullock'sAmericanIndianShow,SantaMonica1975
Blue Corn
San Ildefonso
Polychrome bowl with an avanyu and geometric design, Special Award Ribbon from Alicia and Don Bullock's American Indian Show, Santa Monica 1975
4 in H by 8 1/4 in Dia
Condition: Very good with some pitting on the bottom
Signature: Blue Corn San Ildefonso Pueblo
Date Created: 1975

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

Gonzales 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.

    Ramona Sanchez Gonzales (1885-), second wife of Juan Gonzales (painter)
    • Rose (Cata) Gonzales (daughter-in-law) (1900-1989) & Robert Gonzales (1900-1935)
      • (Johnnie) Tse-Pe (Gonzales)(1940-2000) & Dora Tse-Pe (Gachupin, first wife, Zia, 1939-)
        • Andrea Tse Pe (1975-)
        • Candace Tse-Pe (1968-)
        • Gerri Tse-Pe (1963-)
        • Irene Tse-Pe (1961-)
        • Jennifer Tse-Pe (1960-1977)
      • (Johnnie) Tse-Pe (1940-2000) & Jennifer Tse Pe (Sisneros - second wife, Santa Clara)
    • Blue Corn (Crucita Gonzales Calabaza)(1921-1999)(step-daughter of Ramona) & Santiago Calabaza (Santo Domingo) (d. 1972)
      • Diane Calabaza-Jenkins (1955-)
      • Lucille Calabaza-King
      • Sophia Calabaza
      • Stacey Calabaza
      • He'Shi Flower (1955-)
      • Krieg Kalavaza

    Rose' students:

    • Juanita Gonzales (1909-1988) & Louis "Wo-Peen" Gonzales (brother of Rose Gonzales husband)(1905-1992)
      • Adelphia Martinez (1935-)
    • Lorenzo Gonzales (1922-1995)(adopted by Louis & Juanita Gonzales) & Delores Naquayoma (Hopi/Winnebago)
      • Jeanne M. Gonzales (1959-)
      • John Gonzales (1955-)
      • Laurencita Gonzales
      • Linda Gonzales
      • Marie Ann Gonzales
      • Raymond Gonzales
      • Robert Gonzales
    • Oqwa Pi (Abel Sanchez)(1899-1971) & Tomasena Cata Sanchez (1903-1985)
      • Skipped generation
        • Russell Sanchez (1966-)

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.

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