Dorothy and Paul Gutierrez

Santa Clara

Black mudhead figure with 4 children

Paul White Corn Gutierrez was born to Luther Gutierrez and Lupita Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo in 1940. It doesn't appear that Lupita made much pottery as Luther's name is more tied with his sister Margaret's: Luther and Margaret made pottery together in the design tradition of their parents, Lela and Van (Evangelio) Gutierrez.

In 1965 Paul married Dorothy (Corn Maiden), a Navajo also born in 1940. Dorothy's mother was a weaver who specialized in belts. Dorothy learned a bit about playing with clay while she was in day school.

Paul started working with clay at home when he was around 12 years old. Working with clay as adults, Dorothy and Paul became known for their mudhead figures. Mudheads (also known as koyemsi) usually have distorted features and are often grouped together like storytellers with their children. They also made Nativities: red or black, matte and polished human and animal figures. Dorothy and Paul also made redware and blackware storytellers, mermaids, angels, ornaments, and buffalo, ram and pig figures.

Working as a husband-and-wife team, Dorothy usually molded the clay and formed the figures while Paul did most of the polishing and finish work. They made everything from miniatures to pieces 6 inches tall, in red and black. Some of their Nativities contained as many as 17 pieces, and as Paul told an interviewer once after ground-firing a set, "They come out different each time, with different faces. It's nice."

Dorothy and Paul were exhibitors at SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market from 1981 through 1999. In 1981 they earned 1st and 2nd Place ribbons for their figures. There was another 1st Place ribbon in 1983 for a traditional undecorated piece and a 3rd Place ribbon in 1984 for a figure. From 1995 to 1999 they were also exhibitors at the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show at San Juan Pueblo.

Paul passed on in 2017. Dorothy is still alive but no longer makes pottery.

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