Lois Gutierrez
de la Cruz

Santa Clara

Born in 1948, Lois Gutierrez is the sister of Gloria (Goldenrod) Garcia, Thelma Talachy and Minnie Vigil. They all learned the ancient art from their mother, Petra Montoya Gutierrez, as they were growing up. Petra was from Pojoaque Pueblo and had married into Santa Clara. Her daughters were raised using mostly Santa Clara clays and designs.

Lois married Derek de la Cruz many years ago and they've been working together since: Lois does most of the potting and painting while Derek works with the clay and helps with the firing. Lois and Derek are among the few potters still working at Santa Clara who are willing to search out and prepare the various colors of natural clay Lois uses on her pots. One of their collaborations took the Best of Show ribbon at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 1982 and they were so overwhelmed by the sudden increased demand for their pottery they never exhibited there again, often choosing to go to the New Mexico State Fair instead (and they've earned more than a few ribbons there, too).

Lois's specialty is polychrome pottery made the way it used to be at Santa Clara, before the carving and sgraffito processes took hold. Her designs are often depictions of scenes from pueblo life, adorned with appropriate geometrics.

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved


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 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved

Polychromejarwithkivastepopeningandkosharesfishingandswimmingdesign, Click or tap to see a larger version
See a larger version

Lois Gutierrez, Santa_Clara, Polychromejarwithkivastepopeningandkosharesfishingandswimmingdesign
Lois Gutierrez
Santa Clara
$ 1250
Polychrome jar with kiva step opening and koshares fishing and swimming design
8 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Lois
Date Created: 1998

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved


Most Pueblos

Koshare figure from Santa Clara Pueblo

Margaret and Luther Gutierrez
Santa Clara
Polychrome jar decorated with Koshare figures and geometric design

Lois Gutierrez
Santa Clara
Black and white jar decorated with a Koshare figure

Emma Lewis

Among the religious figures in Pueblo societies is an order of "sacred clowns," also known as Chiffoneti. Among the Hopi they are a group of five distinct figures known collectively as Payakyamu. They are also known as Kossa in the Tewa language, Koshare in the Keres language, Tabosh among the Jemez and Newekwe among the Zunis. The terms are a bit generic as each pueblo has its own unique names and those names will vary according to the kiva (confraternity or secret society) they belong to. Each has a unique role in the community year-round (to invoke rainfall in particular) and perform in the annual spring and summer fertility rites.

Among the Hopi there are 5 clown figures: 4 of which are katsinam (personifications of spirit). The fifth is the Koshare, a figure that came to Hopi country with the Tewas who migrated there in the years after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. When a Hopi dancer dons the mask of a katsina it is believed that the dancer's personality abandons the body and that spirit possesses it.

Among the other Pueblo peoples, the sacred clowns don't wear masks. Instead, they present themselves with black and white horizontal stripes painted on their faces and bodies, paint black circles around their eyes and mouthes, and part their hair down the middle and bind it in two bunches which stand upright on either side of their head and trim those bunches with corn husks.

Their function is to help defuse community tensions by offering their own humorous take on their tribe's popular culture, by communicating tribal traditions and by reinforcing tribal taboos.

European courts often used to have a "jester" who offered similarly meaningful and humorous social commentary on activities in the court and the kingdom. Juan Suni was a Hopi Koshare who performed his duties one day in 1656 by impersonating the resident Franciscan priest at Awatovi. He continued living life as a Koshare as he journeyed from Hopi country to Santa Fe, where he was arrested and put on trial in 1659. The Spaniards recounted a number of "offenses" Juan performed on his journey and they sentenced him to 20 years of slavery for his actions. 40 years later, the Hopis destroyed Awatovi, burning the pueblo, tearing down the walls and killing all the residents: Awatovi at the time was the largest pueblo in Hopi country (although most residents seem to have spoken Towa) and was also the site of the only Spanish mission in all of Hopiland.