Chris Martinez

Santa Clara
Chris Martinez

Born to parents Barbara and Manuel Martinez in October 1968 at Santa Clara Pueblo, Chris Martinez began learning how to make pottery from his grandmother, Flora Naranjo, when he was fourteen years old. His brother and sister, Sammy Naranjo and Vickie Martinez, also learned the traditional way of making pottery from their grandmother. By the time he was ten, Chris was already making spending money by preparing clay for Margaret Tafoya and Teresita Naranjo.

Chris works in both black and red pottery styles, specializing in large jars and low shouldered bowls. His pots are characterized by bold carving and fine stone polishing. Over the years Chris has developed his own unique style of carving the avanyu (the water serpent of the Santa Clara Tewa people). He has also elaborated on the forms he learned from his grandmother, creating his own designs that also incorporate eagle feathers and other symbols of his culture.

Chris tells us his favorite shapes to work with are saucer-shaped water jars and his favorite design is the avanyu. He also says his inspiration comes from within.

While Chris makes pottery when he's home, he also worked for the US Forest Service for more than twenty years, battling wildfires all across the West. He says he has a very special relationship with the element of fire, carefully tending his own fires to make his pottery and then working to help put out great forest fires. That strength of purpose is evident in his work.

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


Alow-shoulderedblackjarcarvedwitharingoffeathersandavanyudesign, Click or tap to see a larger version
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Chris Martinez, Santa_Clara, Alow-shoulderedblackjarcarvedwitharingoffeathersandavanyudesign
Chris Martinez
Santa Clara
$ 595
A low-shouldered black jar carved with a ring of feathers and avanyu design
8 in L by 8 in W by 8.75 in H
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Chris Martinez Santa Clara Pueblo
Date Created: 2024

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

Flora Naranjo 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.

    Flora T. & Ramon Naranjo
    • Barbara Martinez
      • Chris Martinez
      • Vickie Martinez
      • Sammy Naranjo & Melony Gutierrez
        • Justin Naranjo
    • Glenda Naranjo & Bruce Gibson
      • April Naranjo
    • Frances Naranjo Salazar & Jose H.R. Salazar
      • Sophie Cata & Frank Cata (San Juan)
        • Tricia Velarde
        • Morgan Cata
        • Pamela Cata
        • Stacy Cata
      • Angela Salazar
        • Daniel Tafoya
        • Keshia Tafoya
      • Elaine Salazar
        • Destiny Atkinson
        • Monica Atkinson
      • Jose Salazar
      • Ronald Velarde
      • Yolanda Velarde & James Moquino Sr.
        • Keith Chavez
        • Camille Moquino (1979-)
          • Mario Thomas
        • James Moquino Jr.
      • Georgette Vigil

Some of the above info is drawn from Pueblo Indian Pottery, 750 Artist Biographies, by Gregory Schaaf, © 2000, 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