Jennifer Tafoya (Santa Clara Pueblo), Stegosaurus, sgraffito pottery

Of the Earth

by Joshua Rose

Jennifer Tafoya’s distinctive renditions of sgraffito Santa Clara pottery begins with hikes into the mountains of her native New Mexico. It is here where she uncovers the elements the pots are made of.

“I was in Silver City hiking with my sister around an old abandoned iron ore mine,” says Tafoya. “ I looked down and saw something, possibly old iron ore or hematite, so I picked it up, brought it home and grinded it and that became the dark purple you see in my work.”

Jennifer Tafoya's "Dragon Jar"
The distinctive sgraffito of Jennifer Tafoya’s Santa Clara pottery, captures personality and detail. Shown here is her piece entitled Dragon Jar. Photography courtesy of Charles King, King Galleries.
A seedpot with wolf and horned lizard by Jennifer Tafoya
Tafoya’s intricate sgraffito pottery displays layers of detail. Shown here is a seed pot with wolf and horned lizard. Photography courtesy of Charles King, King Galleries.
Santa Clara Pueblo artist Jennifer Tafoya
Santa Clara Pueblo artist Jennifer Tafoya poses with her piece Koi.

The same goes with the sage green and light blue found in her work. These were minerals Tafoya found while hiking in Abiquiu. In fact, all the colors Tafoya uses—from the orangey-reds to the pinks and  greenish-browns—are colors that Tafoya first finds in nature as minerals, then takes home, grinds and uses to paint her intricate sgraffito designs.

As for subject matter it is all about animals and fish. And not just any fish. The trout Tafoya replicates are ones she has caught herself in places like Glenwood, Eagle Nest, Heron and the Chama River. Along with other traditional animals like mountain lions, skunks and deer, Tafoya also utilizes beautifully detailed Chinese dragons, dinosaurs and brightly colored birds.

“Jennifer Tafoya has created a distinctive style of Santa Clara sgraffito pottery, combining realism in clay with natural clay slips for coloration,” says Charles King, who represents Tafoya’s work at King Galleries in Scottsdale and Santa Fe. “The importance of her pottery is not just in the technique, but in expanding the narrative of designs to often include inspiration from Asian imagery combined with Pueblo designs. The challenge for collectors of her work is to anticipate her next series, as it extols her creative energy.”

Joshua Rose

Joshua Rose is currently a Senior Vice President at the Santa Fe Art Auction, responsible for Native Art and Fine Art. Previously, he spent the last 15 years as the editor of American Art Collector, Western Art Collector, Native American Art Magazine and American Fine Art Magazine. He currently resides in Santa Fe and Phoenix, Arizona.


Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.