Joseph Lonewolf

Santa Clara
Sgraffito Mimbres animal designs on a red seed pot by Joseph Lonewolf

Joseph Lonewolf was born into Santa Clara Pueblo in January of 1932. Both his parents, Camilio Sunflower Tafoya and Agapita Silva were well established potters. Joseph's mother taught him to work with clay at an early age, then his father taught him to sculpt the clay. From his earliest years he made miniature incised pots and gave them to his friends and family.

Joseph spent a number of years working as a mechanic and precision machinist in Colorado before returning to Santa Clara and dedicating himself to becoming a master potter in 1971. He was encouraged by his sister, Grace Medicine Flower, and worked some with his father at first before producing exquisite, finely incised miniature pots. His pottery was soon referred to as "pottery jewels," owing to their very delicate cameo-like appearance. A book was published in 1974 entitled "The Pottery Jewels of Joseph Lonewolf," one of the first books ever highlighting a single Native American artist.

Joseph has also been credited as the innovator of two-tone pottery (red and black) using a single-fire process. Previous methods of producing two-tone pottery required two firings. Joseph also pioneered the use of different colored slips on his pottery, often using red, yellow, orange, green, sienna, purple, black, brown and buff slips he discovered in the soils of Colorado. His wife Kathy once said that when Joseph was riding in the car (she always drove) that he could not only tell what color the passing dirt could produce but he could do it at 30 miles per hour. He always made his pots using the traditional Santa Clara techniques of hand-coiling and ground-firing.

Joseph's designs were all one of a kind, incorporating elements of nature, ancient Mimbres designs and contemporary Santa Clara styles. After firing, he inspected all his pots carefully before adding his name, his wolf's head hallmark, and a number and date to the bottom of each. Anything that didn't pass that inspection was immediately destroyed. Joseph always had dozens of pieces in various states of completion. After his passing his studio shelves were lined with these pots. Just recently his daughter Rosemary, a skilled potter in her own right, decided that she may take on the responsibility of finishing some of his pieces.

In 1976 Joseph, his father Camilio, his sister Grace and his daughter Rosemary were featured in a show at Tanner's Indian Arts Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Also in attendance for that show was Rosemary's husband, painter Paul Speckled Rock, and Joseph's other daughter Susan with her husband, painter Mike Romero. Back in Santa Fe, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian recognized Joseph's work with an exhibition in 1977. Other gallery shows in Vail, Colorado Springs and Las Vegas followed quickly. In 1981 Joseph's pottery was featured in major exhibits in three other major museums: the Native American Center for Living Arts in Niagara Falls, NY, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, IN, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ. 1984 saw Joseph and his father Camilio doing a show at the Indian Jewelry Center in Sacramento, CA. In 1985 it was a show at the Sid Deusch Gallery in New York and in 1986 it was a show at McGee's Indian Den in Scottsdale again.

In 1994 Joseph participated in a show at the Four Winds Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA, along with Michael Naranjo, Roxanne Swentzel and Mike Bird. Later that year he enjoyed a solo gallery show at Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery in Santa Fe. In 1996 Joseph returned to the Four Winds Gallery in Pittsburgh with Virgil Ortiz, Roxanne Swentzell, Mike Bird and others. King Galleries of Scottsdale had a show featuring Joseph and his sister Grace Medicine Flower in 1998. That same year pieces made by Joseph and Grace were part of the "Harris Collection" show at the Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, along with pottery made by Tammy Garcia, his aunt Margaret Tafoya, his father Camilio Tafoya, Maria and Julian Martinez, Popovi Da, Tony Da, Teresita Naranjo and others.

Joseph taught his methods and techniques to his three children, Susan Snowflake Romero (Lonewolf), Rosemary Apple Blossom Lonewolf and Greg Lonewolf, before he passed in 2014.

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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

Map showing the location of Santa Clara Pueblo
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 - - All Rights Reserved