Margaret Tafoya

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Margaret Tafoya
Photo of Margaret Tafoya.jpg
Maria Margarita Tafoya
(Corn Blossom)

(1904-08-13)August 13, 1904
DiedFebruary 25, 2001(2001-02-25) (aged 96)
NationalityNative Pueblo Indian, (Kha-Po Owingeh)
Known forTraditional Pottery

Maria Margarita "Margaret" Tafoya (Tewa name: Corn Blossom; August 13, 1904 – February 25, 2001)[1] was the matriarch of Santa Clara Pueblo potters. She was a 1984 NEA National Heritage Fellow.[2]


Margaret learned the art of making pottery from her parents Sara Fina Guiterrez Tafoya (1863–1949) and Jose Geronimo Tafoya (1863–1955). Sara Fina was considered the leading potter of Santa Clara in her day, as the master of making exceptionally large, finely polished blackware. She also occasionally made redware, micaceous clay storage jars and other smaller utilitarian forms. Margaret's father was primarily concerned with raising food for the family but he was also known to make pottery and helped Sara Fina with many aspects of her pottery production.[3]

In 1924, Margaret married her husband Alcario Tafoya (1900–1995). Alcario and Margaret worked together making pottery just as her mother and father had done. Margaret and Sara Fina's husbands both helped with the tasks of digging and preparing the clay and the firing of the pots. Alcario also helped Margaret with the creation and carving of designs on her pots. Like her mother, Margaret molded her pots using the traditional coiling method. "This method and many of the techniques used in the production of her pottery has been dated as being as more than 1200 years old, with the ancient "Anasazi" of the Colorado Plateau being the founding culture. A common misconception was the belief that black on black, burnished pueblo pottery had "died out," according to Larry Frank and Francis H. Harlow. "In reality, the nearby inhabitants of Santa Clara Pueblo were still producing the highly burnished, black on black pottery, since the 1600s, therefore lending to the revival of the San Ildefonso style of black on black "painted" pottery. The only difference between the two pueblo's styles is that in Santa Clara, pots are deeply carved and incised, whereas, in San Ildefonso, the pottery is generally not carved and painted with pigments to cause un-polished designs on a polished surface."[4]

In the early 20th century, as Maria Martinez was developing the San Ildefonso style of traditional pottery, it was well known that she in fact learned various polishing (burnishing) techniques from Margaret Tafoya, as well as how to turn any color of clay black, by simply smothering the fire with manure.[5]

Margaret continued her mother's tradition of making exceptionally large pots, with finely polished surfaces and simple carved designs. Her "bear paw" motif and deeply carved pueblo symbols like the Avanyu (water serpent) and kiva steps around the shoulder of her jars have become signature trademarks of the Tafoya family pottery.[6]

By the 1960s Margaret's pottery had become famous. She received the Best of Show Award in 1978 and 1979 at the Santa Fe Indian Market. In 1984, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a National Heritage Fellowship in recognition of her accomplishments. She was also recognized and received an award as a Master Traditional Artist in 1985. In 1992 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the national Women's Caucus for Art.[7]

Margaret and her husband Alcario raised thirteen children, and many grandchildren, as well as great grandchildren, many of whom are carrying on the Tafoya family tradition of pottery making. Those actively making pottery today include: Toni Roller, Jeff Roller, LuAnn Tafoya, Chris Youngblood, Nancy Youngblood, Nathan Youngblood, Darryl Whitegeese, Ryan Roller, Cliff Roller, Tim Roller, Tyler Roller, Jordan Roller, James Ebelacker, Sarena Ebelacker, and Jamelyn Ebelacker.[8]


  1. ^ "Margaret Tafoya". Clara Database. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Margaret Tafoya". NEA National Heritage Fellowships. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Margaret Tafoya (1904 - 2001) Maria Margarita Tafoya - Corn Blossom". Adobe Gallery. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  4. ^ Frank, Larry, and Francis H. Harlow. Historical Pottery of the Pueblo Indians 1600-1880. Boston: New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1974. 1-158.
  5. ^ (R. Roller-Santa Clara Pueblo)
  6. ^ "Margaret Tafoya 1904–2001". National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Born of Fire: The Pottery of Margaret Tafoya". Four Winds Gallery. Retrieved 11 April 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ellen, Mary and Susan McDonald (editor) – Margaret Tafoya: A Tewa Potters Heritage and Legacy. 1986.
  • Dillingham, Rick – Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery. 2002.
  • Hayes, Alan and John Blom – Southwestern Pottery: Anasazi to Zuni. 1996.
  • Peterson, Susan – Pottery of American Indian Women: The Legacy of Generations. 2000.
  • Schaaf, Gregory – Pueblo Indian Pottery: 750 Artist Biographies. 2000.
  • King, Charles S. and Duane Reider - Born of Fire: the Life and Pottery of Margaret Tafoya. 2008.
  • Roller, Ryan A. - Santa Clara Pueblo. Great-grandson of Margaret Tafoya. Seventh generation traditional potter.

External links[edit]