Tonita Roybal

San Ildefonso
Interlocking scroll design on a gunmetal black on black jar
 

Tonita Martinez Roybal (1892-1945) was the mother of Santana Roybal of Adam and Santana Martinez fame. Tonita learned to make pottery the traditional way from her mother, Dominguita Pino, and she passed that on to her daughter Santana. Tonita was producing pots for the marketplace from 1909 until she passed on in 1945.

Tonita worked mostly with redware and blackware jars and bowls. During her life she developed methods of using matte white and matte red paints on redware pots. She is probably most famous for her black-on-red and black-on-black jars and her polychrome redware. She also attained a measure of fame for her participation in pottery making demonstrations with Maria Martinez, Maximiliana Montoya, Ramona Gonzales and Desideria Montoya at the Museum of New Mexico in 1909. Tonita was one of the finest potters of the twentieth century. Her pottery rivaled Maria's. However, Maria did not paint her pieces while Tonita did. Tonita may have painted some pieces for Maria. Maria and Tonita were also able to achieve the finest "deep luster" polish on their blackware.

Tonita's first husband was Alfredo Montoya, a painter whose mother, Nicolasa Peña Montoya, first encouraged Maria Martinez to make pots. Painting pots for several women potters, Alfredo was especially known for his birds, animals and flowers. After his passing Tonita is known to have spent time studying the work of Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo of Hano. Perhaps in her process of creating at least one Sikyátki-style Hopi pot (now in the collection of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe) she cross-pollinated ideas with some Hopi potters. It is felt that she may have had some influence in the development of black on red pottery at Hopi which became more popular during the 1920's.

In 1920 she married Juan Cruz Roybal and the year after, he began painting some of Tonita's pots. After 1930 he was painting most of her pots for her. It was in 1935 that he began painting some Mimbres-inspired designs on her pots.


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