Chris Teller


Chris Teller was born into Isleta Pueblo in January, 1956. Her parents were Stella Teller and Louis Teller. She grew up watching and working with her mother making pottery. Chris was showing her own pottery at Santa Fe Indian Market before she was 30.

Chris makes polychrome jars and bowls but seems to prefer making figures: storytellers, nativities and sculptures. Like her mother she usually paints her storytellers with sleeping eyes. The grandmothers and babies are often singing. Some of them wear their hair in Hopi whorls. Many of them are sitting with their legs crossed. All of them will make you smile.

100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
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Isleta Pueblo

The Isleta Mission
San Agustin de la Isletas Mission

Isleta Pueblo was founded in the 1300's. Archaeologists have put forth various ideas as to where the people came from with some scholars saying they migrated north from Mogollon/Mimbres settlements to the south while others say they migrated southwestward from either Chaco Canyon in the 1100's and 1200's or from the Four Corners area in the 1200's and 1300's. Their Tiwa language is shared with nearby Sandia Pueblo and a very similar tongue is spoken to the north at Taos and Picuris Pueblos. The two dialects are sometimes referred to as Southern and Northern Tiwa.

When the Spanish arrived in the area they named the pueblo "Isleta" (meaning: island). The residents were relatively accommodating to the Spanish priests when compared to the reception the same priests got in other areas of Nuevo Mexico (making Isleta something of an "island of safety" for the Spanish in an ocean of hostility). When the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 happened, Isleta either couldn't or wouldn't participate in the rebellion. When the Spanish governor left Santa Fe he went to Isleta and gathered his troops. None wanted to go back and fight so when they left and headed south, many Isletans went south to the El Paso area with them. Others fled to the Hopi settlements in Arizona and returned after the fighting was clearly over, many with Hopi spouses. When the Spanish returned in 1682 they found the Isleta mission church burned and the main structure was being used as a livestock pen. When the Spanish returned in force in 1692 they found Isleta empty and burned. The governor ordered the pueblo be rebuilt and resettled so residents were brought in from Taos and Picuris to the north and from Ysleta del Sur to the south, near El Paso. By 1720 a new, grander mission had been rebuilt on the foundations of the first.

Over the next century dissident members of the Laguna and Acoma Pueblo communities migrated to Isleta. While they were welcomed into the main Isleta pueblo at first, friction developed over the years until in the 1800's, the small communities of Oraibi and Chicale were established and most of the newcomers moved to one or the other.

The advent of the railroad in New Mexico was almost the end of the Isleta community as so many of the men went to work for the railroad. While the remaining residents managed to hold on to some of their social and religious practices, other elements of their culture almost disappeared, pottery making being one of those traditions that barely survived.

Today, making pottery the traditional way is practiced by only a few potters and their close family members.

Location of Isleta Pueblo

For more info:
at Wikipedia
official website

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


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

Chris Teller, Isleta, Apolychromestorytellerwithtenchildrenandtwobasketballs
Chris Teller
$ 695
A polychrome storyteller with ten children and two basketballs
6.75 in L by 3.75 in W by 6.75 in H
Condition: Very good, sticker residue and rubbing on bottom, rubbing on feet, and normal wear
Signature: C. Teller Isleta, N.M.

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


Pueblos: Cochiti, Jemez, Acoma, Isleta, Santa Clara

Helen Cordero storyteller with ten children

Helen Cordero
Cochiti Pueblo
Judy Toya storyteller with sixteen children

Judy Toya
Jemez Pueblo
Marilyn Ray storyteller with three children

Marilyn Ray
Acoma Pueblo

Historically, clay figures have been present in the Pueblo pottery tradition for most of the last thousand years. However, figures and effigies were denounced as "works of the devil" by the Spanish missionaries in New Mexico between 1540 and 1820. Before and after that time the art of making figurative sculpture flourished, especially at Cochiti Pueblo.

The "storyteller" is an important role in the tribe as the Native American people did not have a written language to record anything for posterity. The closest thing they had to a written language were the designs they used to decorate pottery, textiles and stone. The storyteller's role was to preserve, retell and pass down the oral history of their people. In most tribes that role was fulfilled by men.

The first real storyteller figure was created in 1964 by Cochiti Pueblo potter Helen Cordero. She made it in memory of her grandfather, Santiago Quintana, and the stories he sang to her and other children in their native Keres when she was young.

Helen's creation struck a chord throughout all the pueblos as the storyteller is a figure central to all their societies. Most tribes also have the figure of the Singing Maiden in their pantheon and in many cases, the mix of Singing Maiden and Storyteller has blurred some lines in the pottery world. Today, as many as three hundred potters in thirteen pueblos have created storytellers, and their storytellers are not only men and women, but also Santa's, mudheads, koshares, bears, owls and other animals, sometimes encumbered with children numbering more than one hundred! Each potter has also customized their storyteller figures to more closely reflect the forms, dress and decorations of their own tribes, often even of their own clans.

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

Teller Family Tree

Disclaimer: This "family tree" is a best effort on our part to determine who the potters are in this family and arrange them in a generational order. The general information available is questionable so we have tried to show each of these diagrams to living members of each family to get their input and approval, too. This diagram is subject to change should we get better info.

    Marcellina Jojola (c. 1860s-)
    • Emily Lente Carpio (c. 1880s-)
      • Felecita Jojola (c. 1900s-) & Rudy Jojola
        • Stella Teller (1929-) and Louis Teller
          • Chris Teller Lucero (1956-)
          • Marie (Robin) Teller Velardez (1954-) and Ray Velardez
            • Lesley Teller Velardez (1973-)
          • Mona Blythe Teller (1960-)
            • Christopher Teller
            • Nicol Teller Blythe (1978-)
          • Lynette Teller (1963-)

Some of the above info is drawn from Southern Pueblo Pottery, 2000 Artist Biographies, by Gregory Schaaf, © 2002, Center for Indigenous Arts & Studies

Other info is derived from personal contacts with family members and through interminable searches of the Internet and cross-examination of the data found.

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