Tafoya, Margaret – Native American Potter – Pueblo

Margaret Tafoya (1904 to 2004)

A Tewa Pueblo Indian who gained international fame for her stunning black and red pottery, Margaret Tafoya never used a potter’s wheel or other innovations. Born in 1904, she was the matriarch of Santa Clara Pueblo potters, who are more numerous and produce more pottery than those of any other pueblo. Her mother, Sara Fina Gutierrez Tafoya, or Autumn Leaf, was “undoubtedly the outstanding Tewa potter of her time,” Mary Ellen and Laurence Blair wrote in Margaret Tafoya: A Tewa Potter’s Heritage and Legacy (Schiffer, 1986).Her work, known for exceptionally large vessels, is exhibited in public and private collections around the world. She was named folk artist of the year by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984.

Though she was one of the last to make pots with handles and criticized others for adding semiprecious gems to pottery, Tafoya also liked to experiment. She used different colors of slips, or thinned clays applied to the outside of her vessels, and her later forms were thinner, lighter and more graceful. Her shiny finishes became ever more polished. She even adapted Greek and Roman forms to classic Santa Clara shapes.

Tafoya was named folk artist of the year in 1984 by the National Endowment of the Humanities. Her name in Tewa, the language of seven Southwestern pueblos, was Corn Blossom. Tafoya died at the Santa Clara Pueblo on 25 February 2001.

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