Jemez pueblo lies west of the Rio Grande on Jemez River. Like other neighboring pueblos, their tradition traces their ancestry back to the Four-Corners prehistoric Anasazi people. Anthropologists say that the Jemez people abandoned the making of pottery sometime after the Spanish conquest, buying their utilitarian ware from neighbors.
Seeing their neighbors making money by selling pottery to the tourists, the Jemez people made a half-hearted attempt to revive the pottery craft during the 1920s and '30s. During this period, they turned out ware that was low fired, and then painted with many colors of poster paint—they were different, but certainly gaudy, to say the least. As late as the early 1970s, their work was a far cry from the artistry of the Hopis and Tewas of Santo Domingo and San Ildefonso.
The Jemez speak the Towa language, and by this anthropologists can trace some of their lineage to prehistoric times. Some of the present-day Jemez families can trace their heritage back to the pueblo of Pecos, a ruined Towa pueblo a few miles east of Santa Fe. Several potters went back to their ancestral home, so the story goes, and picked up and copied pottery shards found at the ruins and museums. And, if there is a tradition, this is it. Realistically, their tradition has mostly come from observing work by other neighbors.
Through trial and error, and through help from friends, and neighbors, the Jemez finally established a higher level of output, but this did not occur until the middle to late 1980s. Since pottery making has been reestablished at Jemez, they have produced some fine potters, who are using traditional methods of coiling and firing. They have also been able to bring some modern concepts, such as incised designs and melon style ribs and swirls. Their work is now quality, and because of their lack of historic icons, their prices are very reasonable.
To order, call 1-800-401-1192, 1-520-529-5545 if you are out of the United States, or go to our
- All dimensions are approximate. -
Item# P887 -Dominique Toya, Jemez.
Dominique Toya won Best of Division and Best of Classification at the 2009 Santa Fe Indian Market with a micaceous swirl seed jar similar to this one. Dominique has turned over a new leaf, with her most recent style, the rhythmic micaceous swirl. She uses only traditional techniques for making and firing her pottery. Recently, she has be using local clays with a micaceous additive. Now, she has gone into making the complex and difficult swirl seed jar. Dominique's mother is Maxine Toya, a noted potter in the Jemez Pueblo. It was Maxine who started Dominique on her pottery. Dominique has been making classic Jemez style pots since she was very young.
Size: 7 1/2" high by 5 7/8" diameter.
Price: $1,500 SOLD.
Item# P793 -Dominique Toya, Jemez.
In this beautiful, smaller seed jar, Dominique has used her new micaceous swirl style. This is a potter that is climbing the ladder to pottery fame, as shown by her win in the 2009 Santa Fe Indian Market.
Size: 4 1/4" high by 4 3/4" diameter.
Price: $600 SOLD.
Alvina has been a recognized Jemez potter for more than 20 years. She does both melon jars and sgraffito carved jars, and often a combination of these two styles. (Sgraffito is a technique of carving designs in a fired pottery piece, using sharp tools such as dental picks. This technique is particularly painstaking, since one slip and the pottery's design is ruined.) She learned pottery from her mother, Filipita Yepa. She has won major awards at all of the larger Indian crafts shows, including Santa Fe Indian Market, Eight Northern Pueblos Show, Heard Museum Show, and the Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial in Gallup. Marcella Yepa is her niece and protégé. Both are members of the Jemez Sun Clan.
Item# P542 -Alvina Yepa, Jemez.
In this swirl seed jar, Alvina has used a variation of the melon bowl style, using a more incised, swirl. This very symmetrical pattern is unique to Alvina. She achieves her finish by polishing the clay body with a stone until it is smooth and glossy. This means hours of work to achieve the finish, after the pot is formed, and before it is fired. It is the process of firing that changes the grey-brown clay to the soft red seen in the finished ware. Alvina has been potting for the last 25 years, and is one of the foremost Jemez artists. She learned her craft from her mother, Felipita.
Size: 4 1/2" high by 6" diameter.
Item# P870-Alvina Yepa, Jemez.
Alvina is very proud of this style, one she originated. She calls it her swirl vase. The neck has kiva steps on one edge. It is decorated with several corn plants and a band of kiva-step designs in sgraffito carvings. Each tiny chip in the carving is made with a dental pick. One slip and the piece can be ruined.
Size: 6" high by 5 1/2" diameter.
Item# P871-Alvina Yepa, Jemez.
In this classic wedding vase, Alvina has combined her unique swirl-melon style, with the sacred corn in sgraffito. Traditionally, the wedding vase is a symbol of uniting the bride and groom, with each drinking from the same source. Corn symbolizes life.
Size: 8 3/4" high by 6" diameter.
Price: $750 SOLD.
Item# P509 -Alvina Yepa, Jemez.
In this elaborately carved jar, Alvina has used their sacred corn plant as the center piece. This is surrounded by eagle feathers. Corn is one of their symbols of life, eagle feathers is one of their symbols for power. The back of this piece is a band of eagle feathers beneath a row of kiva step designs. This type of carving is called "sgraffito," and is done with a sharp instrument, usually an old dental pick. To see the back of the intricate jar, click here.
Size: 5" high by 5 3/4" diameter.
Item# P510-Marcella Yepa, Jemez.
This large, swirl, melon bowl was made by Alvina Yepa's cousin, Marcella. As Alvina says, she and Marcella grew up together, practically as sisters. Often, they still work together. Alvina's mother, Felipita, taught both of the girls.
Size: 9 1/4" high by 8" diameter.
Price: $900 SOLD.
Item# P784-Marcella Yepa, Jemez.
Here, Marcella executes this beautiful, large, swirl seed jar. Marcella's style is bold and big. This takes courage, since swirl pottery is difficult to form and to fire. Marcella has mastered it. For a top-down view of this great piece, click here.
Size: 4" high by 7 5/8" diameter.
Price: $600 SOLD.
Item# P779 -Emma Yepa, Jemez.
Although young, Emma has been potting for over 20 years. A couple of years ago, Emma started making swirl melon pots, and this style has already brought her several awards. Emma was first taught to pot by her mother, Ida. Recently, she has studied under her aunt, Alvina Yepa, one of our featured potters. Here, Emma has combined the red and buff clays to form this beautiful swirl jar.
Size: 5" high by 3 3/4" diameter.
Price: $250 SOLD.
Item# P638 -Emma Yepa, Jemez.
Item# P521 -Glendora Fragua, Jemez.
Glendora has made her niche in the pottery world by being on the leading edge of design innovation. Typically, her work will be small to medium size pieces, with intricate carvings, and set with semi-precious stones. Here, she has executed a seed jar with lid, featuring a carved turtle on two opposing sides, and a carved Kachina on two opposing sides, set with red coral. She has carved a number of spiral place symbol designs from prehistoric petroglyphs. From one of the most prolific and talented Jemez families, she is the daughter of Juanita Fragua and sister of B. J.
Size: 5" high by 6 1/4" diameter, lid adds another 1 1/2" height.
Item# P520 -B. J. Fragua, Jemez.
B. J. is a recognized member of the Fragua family, a sister of Glendora, and a daughter of Juanita. This seed jar with stopper is very typical of her better work. She has carved a design in three segments around the circumference of this jar. Design elements in this design include snow, kiva steps, rain, clouds and the prehistoric spiral place symbol.
Size: 5 1/4" high by 7 1/4" diameter, lid adds another 1 1/2" height.
Item# P831 -Juanita Fragua, Jemez.
Another of our favorites, and long-time potter, is Juanita Fragua. She makes excellent ware, at reasonable prices. Here she has crafted a classic, spiral melon bowl, embellished with cloud and lightening symbols around the rim. Juanita makes her melon bowls by pushing the clay out from the inside, thus forming the segments. This is tedious and painstaking, and not many potters use this difficult technique.
Size: 5 3/4" high by 6" diameter.
Item# P337 -Juanita Fragua, Jemez.
Felicia is a member of the extended Fragua family. Her specialty is making figures that she makes into storytellers and Nativity scenes. She was born and raised in the Pueblo, where she lived with her parents and 12 brothers and sisters. She attended school in the Pueblo, and later studied art at the Santa Fe Indian School. Felicia's mother, Grace L. Fragua, was her first teacher. (Grace was a well-known and respected Jemez potter, famous for her storyteller figures.) Felicia began helping her mother when she was only 13 year old, and has created pottery continuously from that time. Now, Felicia is taught her daughter, Ardina, to make storytellers. Ardina has been working with her mother now for the past 7 years.
Item# P743-Felicia Fragua, Jemez.
Size: overall height 5 1/2"
Item# P744-Felicia Fragua, Jemez.
Size: overall height 4 7/8"
Price: $170 SOLD.
Item# P745-Felicia Fragua, Jemez.
Size: overall height 4 7/8"
Item# P747-Felicia Fragua, Jemez.
During the Christmas season, Felicia makes her whimsical Nacimientos. Her expressions are among the best. This Rio Grande Pueblo artists did not start making pottery Nacimientos until the late 1950s, copying the carved, wooden Nativities seen in their churches for more than 300 years. Although the peak season is Christmas, Felicia makes and sells her Nacimientos all year long. For smaller sets, her prices start at about $ 350.
Ten Pieces: Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the three wise men, lamb, donkey, pig, and cow.
Size: Joseph is approximately 6 1/2" tall.
Price: $900 SOLD.
Item# P643- Virginia Lucero, Jemez.
Virginia has gained an excellent reputation for her Grandmother Storyteller figures. The shawl is a constant feature. Here, Virginia has shown the grandmother singing to four of her grandchildren. The grandchild on her right is holding a doll.
Sitting figure is 51/4" high.
Price: $375 SOLD.
Item# P644 - Virginia Lucero, Jemez.
To order, call 1-800-401-1192, 1-520-721-8757 if you are out of the United States, or go to our
- All dimensions are approximate. -
Jemez potters have come a long way in the last 20 years. They have staged a renaissance in pottery making, and they have done this using "traditional" techniques. Having been out of the picture when Nampeyo and Maria were first recognized, in the early 1900s, they are making a name for themselves, now.
Look for names like Mary Small, Mary Toya, Juanita Fragua, Lorraine Chinana, Maxine Toya, Geraldine Sandia, Helen Tafoya-Henderson, Alvina Yepa, B. J. Fragua, and Glendora Fragua. One of the most recognized Jemez potters of today is Gabriel Gonzales. He has shown in most of the major exhibitions around the country.
- Recommended reading - Check Amazon.com. They stock most of these titles.
- Southern Pueblo Pottery, 2,000 Artist Biographies by Gregory Schaaf, CIAC Press, $110 (hard back);
- Southwestern Pottery, Anasazi to Zuni by Allan Hayes, John Blom, Northland Publishing, $21.95 (paper);
- Fourteen Families in Pueblo Pottery, by Rick Dillingham, University of New Mexico Press, $37.50 (paper);
- Hopi Pottery Symbols by Alex Patterson, Johnson Books, $17.95 (paper);
- Nampeyo and her Legacy by Barbara Kramer, University of New Mexico Press, $39.95 (cloth);
- Talking with the Clay, by Stephen Trimble, $15.95 (paper);
- Pueblo Storyteller by Barbara A. Babcock, $25.95 (paper);
- Generations In Clay, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred Plog, Northland Press;
- Living Tradition of Maria Martinezby Susan Peterson, $45.00 (paper)