Linda Tafoya

Santa Clara

Carved black melon bowl with an organic opening and micaceous slip around the rim

The daughter of Betty and Lee Tafoya, Linda Tafoya was born into Santa Clara Pueblo in 1962. As a granddaughter of Margaret Tafoya she grew up surrounded by some of the finest traditional potters on Earth and learned the Santa Clara way early in life, mostly from her parents and her aunt, Mary Esther Archuleta.

Linda made her first pieces when she was twelve years old. Her father taught her how to form vessels and carve them while her mother taught her sanding and polishing. Her father also taught her his method for firing a perfect black pot and maintaining its high shine. Pieces they worked on together were signed "Lee and Linda." Then she married Dennis Oyenque of San Juan Pueblo and moved there.

At San Juan she continued to make pottery the Santa Clara way but she also learned San Juan methods and imagery and was one of the first Santa Clara potters to use micaceous clay on her pieces.

Linda lived at San Juan through the 1980's, signing her pottery: Linda Tafoya Oyenque, Santa Clara/San Juan. When she divorced she returned to Santa Clara. At Santa Clara she remarried and is now Linda Tafoya Sanchez. She still creates traditional Santa Clara red and black pottery with some San Juan imagery. Deep carving, light carving, sgraffito, micaceous slips, red and black ware, Linda does it all, and with an exceptional polish, too. She also taught her sons, Antonio and Jeremy, the traditional way to make pottery.

Over the years Linda participated in a number of exhibits, fairs and shows, earning awards regularly from the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, Santa Fe Indian Market, Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show and the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonials. To cite a few of her early awards:

  • 1984 - Outstanding Traditional Miniatures, Deer Dancer Annual Pottery Show, Denver, CO
  • 1993 - 1st for a miniature melon jar, 1st for miniature miscellaneous, and 3rd for carved miscellaneous, all at Santa Fe Indian Market
  • 1994 - 1st for black miniature jar, 2nd for miniature seed pot, and 3rd for a carved jar, all at Santa Fe Indian Market
  • 1995 - Best of Division, Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, Scottsdale, AZ
    Geraldine Harris Memorial Award from the Heard
  • 1996 - Ribbons for traditional pottery over 6 inches and traditional miniature under 3 inches, both from Santa Fe Indian Market
  • 1997 - Special Award in traditional pottery, Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show, San Juan Pueblo
    Award from Santa Fe Indian Market in the Traditional Bowls and Vases category
  • 1998 - Best of Division, piece was presented to the Prince of Spain
    1st for undecorated black melon bowl and jar, 1st for carved or incised bowl, both from Santa Fe Indian Market
    Best in Category at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonials
  • 1999 - 1st for a miniature, 1st for a traditional pot, both from the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show.

In 2006 Linda was featured on the cover of New Mexico Magazine and was a featured artist in the 2011 Santa Fe Indian Market Magazine.

After all she has accomplished in her career, Linda says one accolade in particular still warms her heart. Early in her career Margaret Tafoya, her grandmother, asked to see some of her pots. She says Margaret looked over her selection and then proclaimed: "You do good pots!" It doesn't get any better than that.

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - - 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

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