Margaret and Luther Gutierrez

Santa Clara

Polychrome turtle storyteller with animal, geometric design and 3 turtle children

Margaret and Luther were a brother and sister team of Santa Clara potters. Their parents were Lela and Van (Evangelio) Gutierrez. Luther was born in 1911, began making pottery around 1935 and was making pots almost until the day he passed in 1987. From 1956 to about 1966, Luther worked with Lela after Van died, then worked with Margaret after Lela died. The signature dates on their pottery are like this:

  • Lela/Luther signature: 1956-1966
  • Margaret/Luther signature: 1966-1987
  • Margaret/Pauline: 1987-1988
  • Margaret alone: 1988-2018

Margaret was born in 1936 and passed in 2018. Margaret and Luther began collaborating in the early 1960's but that ended with Luther's death in 1987. After that Margaret worked with Luther's daughter Pauline. Shortly after that Pauline died, so Margaret began working with Pauline's daughter, Stephanie.

Together, Margaret and Luther continued and expanded on a tradition begun by their parents, Lela and Van. In the early days of their collaboration, Margaret and Luther were producing polychrome jars, bowls and wedding vases, often decorated with avanyu, clouds, rain, sky bands and lightning bolts in bright, traditional Santa Clara color combinations. Then Luther began searching out new colors of clay and they developed their own unique color palette. In the 1970's they switched it up and began producing polychrome figurines of various animals and other creatures, painted with the unique color palette they had become famous for.

They were participants in the 1974 Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery exhibit at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque. In 1976 they were honored with a show at the Popovi Da Studio of Indian Arts at San Ildefonso Pueblo. In 1985, along with Margaret Tafoya and others, they were participants in a show at the Sid Deutsch Gallery in New York City.

Margaret, by herself, earned a 1st Place ribbon for a painted wedding vase at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1975. She participated in Santa Fe Indian Market every year from 1975 to 1998. She was also a participant in the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show from 1995 to 1998.

They may not have won a lot of awards during their careers but they did make a lot of people smile with the sheer whimsicality of many of their pieces.

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