Native American Indian Clay

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San Ildefonso Pottery


San Ildefonso pottery, immortalized by Maria Martinez, did more than transform an industry and pueblo; it has become an art form reserved for museums worldwide. From Maria and Julian Martinez to Blue Corn, Popovi Da, Tse-Pe, Russell Sanchez, and countless other artisans. San Ildefonso black-on-black pottery has become a form of economic sustenance and a high expression of art

A growing interest in Native American by anthropologists and archeologists of the Smithsonian Institution led to the excavation of Avanyu black-on-black pottery and subsequent attempt to emulate the pottery by Maria Martinez.  The attempt to emulate an older style spawned a new form of firing pottery.     

The making of San Ildefonso pottery is a laborious task requiring great skill.  From the gathering of the clay, forming of the vessel, painting, and finally, the firing, the potter may have vested 15-50 hours per vessel. 

Russell Sanchez – Large Long Neck Jar with Avanyu Lid

5.5" Wide X 13.5"Tall (with Lid)


Stunning! This is one of the largest pieces I have had from Russell Sanchez in a while!  It is a classic shape with an innovative use of clay and design.  The shape of the has a low sharp shoulder and a long neck.  The shape of the jar is a classic which is typically seen in the work of his aunt, Rose Gonzales.  The jar is fired black and incised with a water serpent around the shoulder.  There is a single piece of inset turquoise for the eye. The neck of the jar is fully polished and then two-toned green at the rim with an incised mountain pattern.  There are also additional insets of turquoise hei-shi beads.  The lid has a rectangular finial with a carved “key hole” design.  The edges are polished and the top of the lid is incised, two-toned and inset with two pieces of turquoise.  The bottom of the jar has a “foot” which is reminiscent of historic San Ildefonso pottery and it is also indented.  The gunmetal firing of the jar can easily be seen in the area on the neck below the green band, where there is a “halo” of black.  The hei-shi beads are all made by the Calabaza family from Santo Domingo Pueblo.  The exciting addition to this jar is being there when it was fired!  There are additional photos of the piece before and right after the traditional firing at Russell’s house. What a great piece of provenance to add to this important jar!

Price: $ 10,000

Russell Sanchez – Black & Sienna Lidded Jar with Avanyu

4.5" Wide X 6"Tall


Russell Sanchez is known for his ability to take traditional San Ildefonso forms and designs, and revise them into a more modern appearance.  This jar was fired to nearly a gunmetal metallic appearance.  After the firing, Russell “two toned” the jar to give the top half a sienna coloration. This is achieved by burning off the black to return the clay to its natural color. The bottom of the jar remains gunmetal in appearance.  The jar is etched with a water serpent (avanyu) encircling the shoulder. There are three bands of turquoise hei-shi beads around the shoulder and a single inset of jet for the eye.  The lid is gunmetal in appearance as well, and two-toned on the finial and then inset with a piece of turquoise on each side.  It is an elegant balance of form, design and color.  The jar is signed on the bottom in the clay.  Russell has won numerous awards for his pottery and in 2017 was awarded the prestigious New Mexico Governor’s Award for the Arts.

Price: SOLD

Russell Sanchez – Black & Sienna Bear with Sun Design & Turquosie

4.25" Wide X 2.5"Tall


Russell Sanchez continues to use traditional techniques and materials to create his stunning works in clay.  This bear is highly polished and fired to a deep black coloration. The bear is etched before firing with a sun design inspired by the pottery of Tonita Roybal along the back.  On the sides have a mountain and stylized heartline. The design of the sun on the back has been two-toned so that they are sienna in coloration. Russell also two-toned the inside of the bear’s legs to be sienna. Both are a striking color complement to the black of the bear itself.  There are two large spiderweb turquoise stones in each of the sun medallions. The back of the bear also has four strands of turquoise hei-shi beads and two strands of white shell.  The beads are very thin and smaller than the normal beads he uses in his pottery.  The eyes are also turquoise.  The heartline extends out from the mouth of the bear. The bear is a symbol of strength and the heartline is a traditional image used to symbolize the heart as the center of power in the animal.  The bear is signed on the bottom in the clay.

Price: SOLD

Russell Sanchez – Black Lidded Jar with Avanyu Heishi & Turquosie

4.5" Wide X 6.5"Tall


Stunning, magnificent, unique, creative, labor intensive, are all appropriate terms to use to describe this new lidded bowl by Russell Sanchez.  He has created such a round piece, that our eyes focus on the movement that is expressed by the color contrasts and use of Heishi.  There is a beautiful balance created between the polished areas and the sparkly matte/mica work.  The turquoise stone used as the eye of the serpent just “pops” visually.  The graceful coiling and the polishing of the narrow bottom is exceptional.  And then there is the lid- a piece of art in its own right!  The polished round top of the lid balances with the polished band that sits on the bowl.  The added turquoise stone on top matches the eye of the avanyu, and the added mixed Heishi shell blends with the three strands below. It is really a beautiful new one of a kind accomplishment by Russell.

Price: SOLD

Russell Sanchez, tri-colored avanyu water jar

5 1/2" wide x 6" tall


Russell's work is widely accepted by serious collectors of some of the finest Native American pottery made today. He often introduces different materials into the clay while styaing within the traditional construction and firing techniques of pueblo pottery. Russell has won numerous awards and honors in juried shows every year since 1978. He has works in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute, the Millicent Rogers Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (Santa Fe) and the Museum of Natural History (Los Angeles). 

This was my first Russell piece and to part with it makes my heart ache.  This is an exquisite old style Tewa water jar. This jar is a classic shape with a wide shoulder and an elongated neck. The rim of the jar is slightly turned out, scalloped and the inside of the neck is fully polished! Russell has incised an avanyu with a stunning high grade turquoise stone for the eye. Above the serpent is one strand of super fine olive shell and one strand of super fine turquoise Heishi beads, and below two more strands of super fine olive shell Heishi beads, all made by Mary Calabaza from Santo Domingo.  The neck of the jar is a soft and subtle terra cotta tone. Trademark dots are incised above the serpent.  The  base is a flawless polished tan. This is such a classic piece. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Price: SOLD

Marie and Julian, Large Feather Plate

12" wide x 2" tall


Maria Martinez (Maria Montoya Martinez) and her husband, Julian were the main artists and potters at the San Ildefonso pueblo near Santa Fe, NM. The pair is credited with introducing the key techniques and designs of both San Ildefonso and Santa Clara black on black ware pottery. Their work influenced artists with their carved and matte blackware pottery decorations with monochrome, polychrome, and black on black pottery. 

After Maria and Julian discovered in 1918 how to produce the now-famous black-on-black pottery, they spent the remainder of their careers perfecting and producing it for museums and collectors worldwide. 

This large black on black feather plate is a prime example of how great her pottery is. Marie and Julian created the piece with its wide feather pattern derived from Mimbres pottery. The plate is in excellent condition with a near mirror finish. It measures 12" diameter. circa 1933. It is signed "Marie" and Julian. 

Price: $12,000.00

Maria Martinez/Popovi Da, Gunmetal Feather Plate



This is a stunning black gunmetal plate by Maria Martinez and her son, Popovi Da. Maria made and polished the plate while it was painted by her son, Popovi Da  (1923-1971). The plate is highly polished and has a feather pattern as the main design.  The surface of the plate is stunning and beautifully reflects the light.  The feathers are very tightly painted, which is typical of the early pieces from the late 1950’s.   It is  signed on the back in the clay, “Maria Popovi“. The signature indicates that it was made around 1956-9.   The plate is in excellent  condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair.

Price: SOLD


Tony Da, Black avanyu bowl

6" wide x 5" tall


Over the course of a career that spanned from 1967-82, Tony helped change the world of Pueblo pottery.   He was among the first to begin etching into the surface of the pottery (sgraffito), adding stones, hei-shi and then began creating all matte carved vessels.  His pottery today is considered to be among the most sought after by collectors and museum alike.

This bowl is a larger piece and it was originally purchased in 1967.  I am the second owner. The bowl is highly polished black and has an incised avanyu encircling around the middle of the bowl.  It has been fired a mirror like black coloration and the avanyu is detailed in the design of the horn and the body.  This piece is classic of his pottery!  It is signed on the bottom in the clay “DA”.  It is in excellent condition.  The shape and design are definitely the iconic style of pottery for which Tony was renowned and important addition to any collection!

Price: $15,000.00 SOLD


Tony Da, Red Feather Bowl

5" wide x 4" tall


The bowl is highly polished red and has an incised feather design on two sides. Two pieces of spiderweb Kingman turquoise have been inset. It is signed on the bottom in the clay “DA”.  It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair.  The shape and design are definitely the iconic style of pottery for which Tony was renowned an important addition to any collection!

Price: $12,000.00  SOLD


Rose Gonzalous, black carved avanyu

6" wide x 6"' tall


Rose Gonzales was one of the early innovators of deeply carved pottery at San Ildefonso pueblo in the 1930's. She was originally from San Juan Pueblo and married Robert Gonzales in 1920. Her carved pottery was a cameo in appearance as it is not deep and ends on the sharp edge of her pottery.

Rose Gonzales is often considered the first at San Ildefonso Pueblo to make carved pottery. This beautiful bowl is a stunning piece of her pottery.  It is her classic style of Avanyu (water serpent) which is carved into the clay.  Her carving style always has a rounded edge “cameo” style appearance.  The bowl is highly polished with close to a gun metal shine.  This is such a wonderful piece.  It is signed, “Rose” on the bottom.  It is in excellent condition with no chips, cracks, restoration or repair. Absolutly gorgeous!

Price: $1,800.00


Dora Tse pe, brown bear pot

3 1/2" x 3 1/2"


Dora Tse-pe a native of Zia Pueblo, Dora moved to San Ildefonso about 30 years ago. She used to watch her mother, Candeleria Gauchupin and her mother-in-law Rose Gonzales as they made their pottery. They were both great influences on her work. In 1969, Dora made her first pot, which someone purchased and entered in the New Mexico State Fair crafts competition. It won a blue ribbon. She has now received over 100 awards for her work and she is recognized as a master potter, and was awarded the title Master of Indian Market. She is and has always been a perfectionist in her art career. She achieves a beautifully smooth burnish and an exceptional black firing to her pottery. Dora experimented with and achieved success in two-tone firings, resulting in sienna accents to the blackware.


This beautiful little bowl is fired a beautiful red with a central medallion surrounded by very delicate heshi beads of turquoise.  The central medallion has a perfect matte brown bear with a back ground of micaceous clay.

Price: $1,600.00 SOLD


Dora Tse pe, black bear lidded pot

5" x 5"  (5" x 7" with lid)


Dora Tse-Pe learned to make pottery from her mother-in-law Rose Gonzales. She began making her own pottery in late 1970's. Her work continues to be inspired by the shaped and styles of Rose's pottery yet with Dora's distinctive high polish. Her pottery is signed on the bottom in the clay, "Dora Tse-Pe". Dora has won numerous awards for her work at Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum Indian Fair and her pottery can be found in numerous books, including "The Art of Clay" and "Legacy of Generations".

This piece was also a special order I "begged" Dora to make for me, (of course with her own artistic ingenious thrown in ; )

This is one of Dora’s classic vessels.  It is a highly polished black bowl with a bear lid.

Dora has created a magnificent black polished bowl with a bear theme. Dora has carved her bear on one side, with a “torched” tan bear, the bear is surrounded by black matte and then embedded tiny, fine turquoise Heishi around the medallion. 

The polish on this piece is remarkable. You can see from the photo that the bowl actually glistens.

Price: $ 4500.00 SOLD


Dora Tse Pe, red and black avanyu micaceous plate

2" deep x 8 1/2 wide"  


WOW and wow again! This plate is spectacular.  8 1/2" wide, polished avanyu with a gorgeous turquoise eye surrounded by matte red then matte black, inlaid turquoise heshi beads and finished off in a spectacular micaceous clay.  This is a must Dora piece!

Price: $2500.00 SOLD


Dora Tse Pe, red  and tan micaceous bear plate

6 1/2" wide 


Can you tell how much I love Dora's work?  Another wonderful smaller plate, but equally as beautiful. Natural etched bear surrounded by polished red, a beautiful string of inlaid turquoise heshi, and again in this beautiful micaceous clay.  A perfect compliment to the other Dora pieces!

Price: SOLD


Dora Tse pe, large avanyu pot

7" wide x 7" tall


Dora learned pottery as a child from her mother, Candelaria Gachupin, gathering clay, sand, and the basalt that they added for temper (instead of volcanic ash). Basalt had to be stored in the ground to keep it from oxidizing. Dora would bring it home and bury it until it was time to make pots, when the basalt would be pounded and ground into a powder.

When Dora married and moved to San Ildefonso Pueblo, she already knew how to make pottery, but she watched Rose Gonzales, her new mother-in-law, make red and black pottery. "We didn't polish at Zia," says Dora, who has helped Rose gather clay and fuel for fire for ten years.

Dora says that she was inspired by Maria Martinez's son Popovi Da, by his son Tony Da, and by her mother-in-law, Rose, who came to San Ildefonso from San Juan Pueblo. Rose was making polished black pottery as she did at San Juan. Dora says Rose claimed she taught Santa Clara potters to carve and started women carving at San Ildefonso and that she is responsible for the great tradition of carving polished red or black pots.

This is a beautiful large avanyu pot by Dora.  The turquoise eye is stunning, such a beautiful light spiderweb blue, just gorgeous.  The polish and carving on this piece is flawless.

Price: $6,500.00


Russell Sanchez, 5 medallion bowl

6" tall x 7" wide


Russell Sanchez is unquestionably one of the most talented and creative of the current pueblo potters. He experimented with firing techniques until he determined a proper temperature to achieve what he was looking for.  As a result, he fires his pottery at a much higher temperature, maybe 1800 degrees F., whereas the normal is only around 1100 or 1200 degrees. This results in a much harder surface to the vessel, thus eliminating chances of spalling because any impurities have been absorbed into the clay from the hot firing. He says that his vessels could hold water as the older vessels did because of the firing technique. The pottery, he says, actually achieves a red-hot appearance during the firing.

Because of the hotter firing, the surface of the pot is much harder, so any sgraffito carving must be performed before firing because of the hardness. Most sgraffito carvers carve after firing.  In this instance, Russell carved the details of a bird as the five medallions, in each quail bird is a different animal, a fish, a lizard, tad poles, snake and a dragonfly of the design and then each medallion he encircle with a row of brown hieshe, absolutly beautiful.  The four different colors really make this piece stand out.

Price: SOLD


Blue Corn, Feather Bowl

5" wide x 4" tall


Blue Corn was born Crucita Gonzales in 1921 into the San Ildefonso Pueblo. She was encouraged to start making pottery by her grandmother at the age of 3 but it was not until she was grown and had her first child with husband Santiago "Sandy" Calabaza (Santo Domingo) that she quit her housekeeping job (for J. Robert Oppenheimer) and started making pottery full time. Blue Corn is best known as a leader in the polychrome revival and for her highly polished surfaces, which she said she achieved by polishing very slowly. Blue Corn was masterful with the creation of her polychrome pottery. She did not create as many pots with red clay, and I think I have one of the best. This is a beautiful, small and delicate piece which had to have been made during the 1970’s or very early 80’s. The burnished high shine of this pot is wonderful. Using a slip, the artist has created a traditional design of feathers.

So take a look and think about this opportunity to have a piece made by one of the legends in San Ildefonso pottery.  I would love to send this to you. And be sure to check out all of the fine Pueblo Pottery on this web site.

Price: SOLD


Russell Sanchez, Canteen

6 1/2" tall x 7" from handle to handle


Russell Sanchez continues to be one of the true innovators in Pueblo pottery.  Each piece is perfectly coil built, stone polished and etched.

This canteen is beautiful with a gold micaseous clay slip. The two central medallion with deer on both sides are highly polished and inset with spiderweb Kingman turquoise.  The use of various clays, stones and shell beads add to the complexity of this stunning canteen It’s also fascinating to be able to look at one vessel and see a century of history of San Ildefonso pottery.   The hei-shi beads used in Russell’s pottery are all handmade by the Calabaza family of Santo Domingo pueblo. (Both sides are similar, more photos available).

A leather strap is inserted into the loop handles and a wood stopper is provided for the opening.

This is my favorite Russell piece, it is absolutly beautiful.  If you are a fan of Russell and canteen's, this piece is a must to have. 

Price: SOLD


Lupita Martinez, 1950's black avanyu pot

4" tall x 6 1/2" wide


Lupita Vigil Martinez married Anselmo Martinez. Anselmo was the grandson of Luisita Pena Martinez and Santiago Martinez. The lineage is as follows: 


The children of Luisita Pena Martinez and Santiago Martinez were Julian Martinez, Louis Martinez and Legoria Martinez Pena. The son of Louis Martinez was Anselmo Martinez. Julian Martinez married Maria Montoya (Maria), making Lupita the niece of Maria. 


Lupita was born in 1918 and was an active potter from about 1935 to the 1980's.


This is a very old avanyu pot by Lupita, Circ 1950, it was purchased from David Cook Gallery.  It shows a bit of ware but has some historic significance.  

Price: $800.00