Teresita Tafoya Naranjo – Artist Bio


(Teracite Tafoya Naranjo, Apple Blossom)

(1919 – 1999)

New Mexico, Santa Clara Pueblo, Native American Pottery

“My pottery is the handiwork of God.” – Teresita Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo

Teresita Naranjo, born and raised at Santa Clara pueblo, was the daughter of Christina (1891 – 1980) and Victor Naranjo. Her grandmother was the highly respected potter, Sara Fina Tafoya. Her mother, Christina, was an excellent potter and a sister of the matriarch, Margaret Tafoya.

Teresita married her husband, Joe Naranjo, at an early age. Together they had four children. The oldest child was only twelve years old when her husband passed away in 1950. Teresita raised her four children as a single mother supporting her family by making pottery.

Teresita gathered her own clay, molded her pots, carved her designs and polished tem with polishing stones handed down from generation to generation. Her pots were then fired in an open fire which determines the color. To produce red pots she used strips of tree bark in her firing process.

Her pots were set on pieces of tin and then covered with more tin on top. Tree bark was then placed all around and a fire was built over the pots. When the pots turned red they were finished. To produce black pots she used cow chips instead of strips of bark. After the pots turned red she would cover them with a fine power of dried horse manure and let them smoke for several hours until they turned a glossy black. Teresita enjoyed making pottery and became a master potter. She specialized in carved blackware and redware bowls, jars, wedding vases and miniatures.

Her favorite design was the Avanyu (water serpent). She shared the story of her grandfather Geronimo Tafoya, “My grandfather used to tell us the story about the waterdragon, which is called Avanyu in Tewa language which was spoken in his days. However the way he told it was the waterdragon brought luck, health, peace, joy and happiness as well as rain and good crops to the Indian people and to all people on the earth. So he said whoever buys your pottery with the waterdragon design, he too will always have all those good things.”

A collection of her work can be seen at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.