Margaret Tafoya the Artist Margaret Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

and, I did. (Gallimore and Tharp, p. 178, quoting Tafoya).

Tafoya taught her own children and grandchildren in a similar fashion. Even at the age of 95, Tafoya was continuing to make pottery and passing:

her knowledge on to her descendants. Among them is her grandson Nathan Youngblood... [who] describes learning from Tafoya. "My grandmother and I would sit directly across from each other," he says. "I would mirror everything she was doing." Although Youngblood's pots contain traditional Santa Clara symbols, he has incorporated innovative forms, such as an egg shape, into his style. (Brown).

In this way, Tafoya's descendants not only continued the traditional Native American art form, but also her flair for innovation.

To truly understand how Tafoya approached making pottery, it is useful to study how her granddaughter, Nancy Youngblood, describes the pottery-making process. The family gathers to dig up clay in the fall. "The clay is spread out, broken into small pieces, dried thoroughly, and then put in trash cans to soak in water, which causes impurities to rise to the surface to be skimmed off." (Youngblood). The clay is run through mesh to remove pebbles and other impurities. The clay is mixed with volcanic ash that is collected at Pojoaque Pueblo. "The clay and sand are mixed in traditional proportions and then stored in plastic to maintain a proper degree of hardness." (Youngblood). This clay is squeezed and pounded to remove air bubbles before the artist starts a pot. The artists "rolls coils of clay between her palms and starts the base of the pot over a shallow bowl called a puki which is removed when the finished pot begins to harden." (Youngblood). After the pottery is coiled, it can be shaped with a wide-range of tools. Then the pot is wrapped in plastic, to pull out moisture, and stored until it reaches the hardness of leather. The artist then draws the design for her carving onto the pot, and then commences with the carving stage. They can use a variety of tools to carve the pot. The pot is completely dried before sanding. "Although corncobs were the traditional sanding tool at Santa Clara, Margaret Tafoya began using sandpaper years ago which the family potters continue." (Youngblood). Once sanding is finished, the piece is cleaned with a damp sable brush, dried, and then painted with several coats of slip. Next, the piece of polish, a "tedious stage of intense concentration," because "the pot must be handled with extreme care due to its fragility before being fired." (Youngblood). Polishing is done with stones, and a polishing stone that belonged to Sarafina has been passed down through the generations. The pieces are fired on an open pit, resembling a campfire.

Because so much of what Tafoya did was create traditional pottery, it seems difficult to understand why she is considered such an innovative artist and given such respect and renown. However, the quote above reveals that Tafoya was instructed to stay with traditional clay designs, but she did not do so. Tafoya "was a traditionalist, but also an innovator in the making of wedding, storage and water jars, plates, vases, lamps, candlesticks, and other distinctive forms." (National Endowment for the Arts). It was this innovation that differentiated Tafoya pottery from the other pottery of the Santa Clara Pueblo, and even from the pottery of the rest of the Southwest. In fact, along with a handful of other artists, including Maria Martinez, Lucy Martin Lewis and Helen Cordero, Margaret Tafoya was a centerpiece of the revival of traditional clay pot-making among the Pueblo in the 1920s and 1930s. (Gaffney). They did this by returning to traditional methods of clay-making, which allowed them to make large vessels:

Rather than making their pots on a potter's wheel, they built them by stacking one "sausage" of clay upon another, as it had been done for centuries among the Pueblo. When the coiling was completed, they smoothed the interior and exterior of the pots, coated them with a slip -- a watery clay substance -- and then polished, decorated, and fired them. Margaret Tafoya was known for the special attention she gave to creating an unusual polish, a finish that resulted from the local clay and ash she used, the kind of slip she added, plus many hours spent polishing the pots with stones. To get the black finish, which is another feature associated with both Santa Clara and San Ildefonso, Margaret fired her pots with pine slabs and horse manure. (Gaffney).

In fact, her innovation was not limited only to her artwork; she was part of a revival of Native American culture. In fact, one of Tafoya's early accomplishments was to help create and establish a marketplace for traditional Native American artwork:

In 1922, a group of Native American craftspeople gathered in the old National Guard

Armory behind the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe to display their works. This was the first Indian Market. One of the early participants in the exhibit was a young potter from Santa Clara puebl0 named Margaret Tafoya, who went on to become a renowned artist and win the Best of Show award at Indian Market twice in the 1970s. (Brown).

Eventually, Margaret became a world-famous artist. People would come from around the world to meet Tafoya, who continued to travel to markets and shows until late in her old age., and she continued her work until late in her life. Though she began her life as a serious artist in the 1920s:

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 Markets. In 1984, the National Endowment for the Arts elected her Folk Artist of the Year in recognition of her accomplishments. She was also recognized and received an award as a Master Traditional Artist in 1985. (Holmes Anthropology Museum).

Though she received worldwide acclaim as an artist, Tafoya never abandoned her Native American heritage and culture.

Works Cited

Brown, Margaret. "Reinventing Tradition." 2008. Southwest Art

Magazine. 8 Mar. 2008

Gaffney, Dennis. "The Tafoyas: Legends of Pueblo Pottery." Follow the Stories. 2005.

Antiques Roadshow. 8 Mar. 2008

Gallimore, Ronald, and Roland Tharp. "Teaching Mind in Society: Teaching, Schooling, and Literate Discourse." Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications and Applications of Sociohistorical Psychology. Ed. Luis Moll. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 175-205.

Holmes Anthropology Museum. "Margaret Tafoya." Southwest Pueblo Indian Pottery. 2005.

Wichita State University. 8 Mar. 2008

Kirkham, Pat. Women Designers in the U.S.A.: 1900-2000. New Haven: Yale University Press,

National Endowment for the Arts. "Margaret Tafoya." Lifetime Honors: 1984 NEA National

Heritage Fellowships. 2008. National Endowment for the Arts. 6 Mar. 2008

Youngblood, Nancy. "The Old Ways." NancyYoungbloodInc.Com. 2008. Nancy Youngblood

Pottery. 8 Mar. 2008

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