A husband and wife team of Santa Clara potters who create traditional carved pottery, Judy and Lincoln Tafoya work with clay made from the clay and white sand found in the foothills surrounding the Santa Clara Pueblo. Lincoln Tafoya gathers all materials himself so as to create the proper mixture.
After ten days of curing and mixing the clay, Judy Tafoya shapes vessels using the coil method. She works in a group of four to six pots at a time, letting them set for a day or two when finished with the shaping. She then designs the pots, and cuts out the designs with a sharp blade, digging them out with a carving tool. Each pot design takes a minimum of three hours to complete. Once carved, they are left to dry completely, which takes two to three days, depending on the size of the vessel.
Once dry, the pots are ready to sand, a process which smoothes, evens, and levels the top and bottom of the pot. This can take from thirty minutes to half a day, depending on the size and number of pots. Once sanded, the vessel is wiped down to remove any dust, and polished with an oil base clay obtained from another pueblo. After soaking and refining it, the slip is applied to the pot one coat at a time, covering the entire surface. Judy and Lincoln Tafoya apply seven to ten coats; while still damp, they stone burnish the vessels with a stone, which originally belonged to Judy’s grandmother. It can take from one to six hours of continuous stone burnishing to achieve the desired shine. Once burnished to the proper polish, the pots are allowed to dry for at least three days before firing.
The Tafoya’s fire their pots outside on the ground using cedar and cottonwood bark to create a fast and extremely hot burn. The pots are fired for ten to fifteen minutes for red pottery. If black is desired, the vessels are fired and then covered with manure for another hour.
After firing, Lincoln Tafoya begins the etching process. He first draws the design, then chips it out, leaving the detail for last. He usually works on the pot for a full week, although larger vessels can take anywhere from four months to a year.
The Tafoya’s begin doing pottery in the 1980’s. Their seven children are continuing the family tradition; five have already marketed their work. They are the fifth generation of potters in the family.
Reference: Artist publication