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Clothing her Children with Clay: Margaret Tafoya(1904-2001)

Margaret Tafoya
Margaret Tafoya from Pottery by American Indian Women by Susan Peterson.

I was born in Albuquerque, where my father was going to the University of New Mexico, but we moved to Canada when I was a baby.  We were probably the only family in Edmonton with a subscription to New Mexico magazine.  When I was a girl, my parents bought several pieces of pottery from New Mexico.  The pots were polished black with matte designs emerging from the gleam.  I was fascinated by the contrast of surfaces, of shiny and porous, how the black could be of two natures.

Margaret Tafoya
Margaret Tafoya, Santa Clara Blackware from Christie’s Catalog.

I came across the carved and polished blackware of Tewa artist Margaret Tafoya(1904-2001),from the Santa Clara Pueblo in NM.  She was from a family of potters, and learned from her parents, Sarafina and Geronimo Tafoya.  Margaret married Alcario Tafoya(who had the same last name as she did), and together they also worked together making and selling pottery to support their family of 13 children.  Many of these children have gone on to make their own pottery.  In 1984, Margaret Tafoya won an NEA Heritage Fellowship in honor of her work.  She dug the clay at the Pueblo, and used the traditional coil method, and burnishing the surface with polishing stones.

In Bowing to the Artist Within,  Nancy Azara describes Margaret Tafoya’s prayer to Mother Clay,  and how, “In Tewa, the language of Santa Clara, uses the same word, nung, to mean both people and clay.   As potters work the clay, the pot and the person are intimately connected. The shape that becomes the pot embodies the spirit of both.”

More Margarets on my Margarets Pinterest Board.

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