Sammy Naranjo

Santa Clara
Sammy Naranjo
Sgraffito avanyu, feather and geometric design on a black jar with sienna rim and spots

Sammy Naranjo, (Okuwa Nae’ Khung Tsire meaning Dark Cloud Bird), was born in 1972 into the Pueblo of Santa Clara. He is a member of the Tree Clan and is related to Barbara Martinez (birth mother), Flora Naranjo (mother), Glenda Naranjo (aunt), Vickie Martinez (sister) and Chris and Manuel Martinez (brothers).

Sammy tells us he was about twelve when his mother, Flora Naranjo, inspired him to create traditional carved pottery. Today, Sammy specializes in and is well known for his black and sienna jars decorated with finely executed sgraffito designs such as the Avanyu (water serpent), feather patterns and bear claws.

Sammy gets his clay from a sacred place on Santa Clara Pueblo. He processes the clay himself, ridding it of impurities and preparing it for use. Then he builds a pot by hand coiling and shaping it, then by polishing it with stones. He fires his black pots the traditional way, outdoors with wood and horse manure. In his words: "I enjoy making pottery because I like to come up with my own traditional designs. I also find that etching my pots is a challenging and rewarding experience. My pottery is unique in the way that no other pot is the same. It is like the pottery is alive. It wants to be a certain way and no matter what I do it won’t change the outcome of what the pot wants to look like."

Sammy has won awards at the New Mexico State Fair, Eight Northern Indian Arts & Crafts Show and the Arizona State Museum. He signs his work "Sammy Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo."

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