Born in Blanco, New Mexico, Tammy Allen belongs to the Jicarilla Apache tribe, specifically, the Ollero Clan (Mountain People). She is a direct descendant of Jicarilla Apache chiefs and Chief Ouray of the Ute Tribe, who was instrumental in helping establish the Jicarilla Apache reservation.
Allen is a non-lineage micaceous pottery artist, that is, she does not come from a long line of Jicarilla Apache potters. Nonetheless she is interested in sustaining this tradition for the next generation of Jicarilla Apaches.
The Jicarilla Apaches are one of the six Athapascan groups that migrated out of Canada, between 1300 to 1500 AD. During that time, their traditional homelands spanned across New Mexico, southern Colorado and western Oklahoma.
Due to increase in other populations, Manifest Destiny, and Indian Wars, the Apaches' traditional cultural and economic lifeways became strained. Many had died due to famine, Indian Wars, including the Battle of Cieneguilla and new diseases for which they had no resistance. During their declining nomadic history, the Jicarilla Apaches started settling the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico.
During this time, the Jicarilla Apaches began subsidizing their livelihood through sales of micaceous clay pottery and basketry. They also learned farming from their Pueblo neighbors. Eventually, United State President Grover Cleveland created the Jicarilla Apache Reservation through a United States executive order signed on February 11, 1887.
Although she had already been working in ceramics, in 1995, Allen began experimenting with micaceous clay. Micaceous pottery has a glittery surface, due to the presence of mica flakes in the clay. She wanted to keep the Jicarilla Apache pottery tradition alive by using historical Native American pottery construction techniques.
Allen exhibited her new work in Native American art galleries and museums. The pottery she presented did not resemble typical micaceous cooking pots. Her pottery was light, well balanced, and highly polished. She sold her first pieces to the Cottonwood Trading Post, in San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, the Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Colorado, and Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. This introduction has paved way for other Jicarilla Apache potters, since there were very few practicing ceramics at the time.
In 2005, Allen was accepted and entered her first Santa Fe Indian Market. During this show, she won first and third place prizes in her division. Currently, she is represented by several galleries and conducts demonstrations and workshops about pottery making.
- "Artist Resume." Walking Spirit. 1 Jan 2009 (accessed 10 Jan 2009).
- Hayes, Allen and John Blom. Southwestern Pottery, Anasazi to Zuni. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Publishing, 1996. Pages 172-3. ISBN 0-87358-656-5.