Born of Fire: Pottery by Margaret Tafoya
Customs House Ground Floor Gallery
June 24, 2011 through September 30, 2012
With today’s rapid developments in technology, the desire to sustain tradition has become increasingly urgent. Margaret Tafoya, matriarch of Santa Clara Pueblo potters, responded to this call through her lifelong pursuit of pottery. Drawing inspiration from the ceramic tradition of her ancestors, Tafoya created large, polished wares that are simple but elegant, reflecting a harmonious union of history and modern aesthetics.
New Mexico has been home to the Pueblo culture and its ancestors for centuries. Their pottery tradition, dating as far back as A.D. 500, demonstrates the craft’s importance to Pueblo identity. Such was the case for Margaret Tafoya, the daughter of well-known Santa Clara Pueblo potters who awakened her to the value of tradition.
Continuing the legacy of her immediate and ancestral past, Tafoya used local clay and the age-old techniques of coiling and wood-firing. In addition to honoring ancient customs, her pottery is equally germane to modernity. Her red and black wares are highly polished and often bear little decoration, save for a recurring incised bear paw, a trademark of the Tafoya clan. These qualities lend Tafoya’s work an elegant minimalism that echoes modern aesthetics.
For Tafoya, clay has a spiritual presence that can sense the virtue and history of the potter. In her words, “You have to have a good heart when you sit down to make this pottery; you have to live a good life. The pottery knows.” The sustenance of Pueblo pottery attests to the tried and true nature of a production process and the resolve of Puebloans to sustain their cultural identity. Tafoya’s vivacious work is an important contribution, and also attests to the capacity for tradition and modernity to harmoniously coexist.