If you were to list the ten best, contemporary potters, Grace Medicine Flower
would be near the top. Grace is a member of the famous Tafoya family of Santa Clara. Her father,
Camilio (Sunflower) Tafoya was the brother of Margaret Tafoya. It was Camilio who pioneered the
incorporation of delicate designs carved into the unfired piecessgraffito. This tradition is being
carried on by both Grace and her brother, Joseph Lonewolf.
In Grace's own words, "Potters must push themselves to advance the art. I grew up making
traditional pottery, starting with finger pots when I was a child. I started working with my father, he
introduced me to sgraffito carving. Building on traditional concepts, I like to try new ideas. This is the
exciting part of my work. Recently, I have been combining elements, deep carving with sgraffito,
sculptured rims, even rims with carved basket-weaving elements."
A note of interest, sgraffito carving is very precise and pains-taking work. One of the marks of a
true artist is not only the design, but the fine-line work making up the design. Carved after the pot is
dried and polished, but before it is fired, one slip of the knife, one tiny chip and the design can be
ruined. There is no chance for erasure, there is no chance for recovery.
Grace digs her own
clay from local sources and processes it through the many steps necessary to produce the workable
plasticity. She still use the classic coiling method of building up the pot. She then applies the slip,
and hand polishes it with smooth stones. One special stone was given to her by her grandmother,
Agapita, a well-known potter in her own right.
After polishing, she uses steel cutting tools
to produce the sgraffito design into the still very delicate surface. When the carving is complete, she
fires her work using the outdoor, traditional Santa Clara methods.