Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Camilio “Sunflower” Tafoya (1902-1995)

Camilio “Sunflower” Tafoya was born in Santa Clara Pueblo in 1902 to Geronimo and Sara Fina Tafoya. Like his sister the famous Margaret Tafoya, he grew up watching his mother Sara Fina make pottery. Camilio was among one of the earliest carvers of redware and blackware pottery of Santa Clara Pueblo. As a wood carver, Camilio found that by making the clay coils thicker and allowing the pottery to dry hard before carving solved the problem of carving too deeply and cutting through the walls of the pot. Using this method he succeeded in making very large carved jars. Camilio’s carvings included some of his favorite designs like the Avanyu (water serpent), bear paws, birds and flowers as well as Mimbres and ancient rock art designs he had encountered while walking in the hills and mountains around the pueblo.

Camilio also taught his son, Joseph Lonewolf, and daughter, Grace Medicine Flower, the art of clay sculpting. In the 1960’s Camilio (and his son and daughter) developed a style of meticulously incised pottery known as sgraffito carving. Delicate designs are carved into the pieces after they have been dried and polished but before firing. If a mistake is made while carving the design, the piece can be ruined. Sgraffito style pottery has become very popular and is expensive due to the amount of time and meticulous work involved in its Creation. Camilio participated in several gallery shows with his son Joseph in Santa Fe, Sacramento, and Santa Monica (CA).

In 1985, Camilio attended the Sid Deusch Gallery show in NYC with his sister Margaret Tafoya.
Camilio Tafoya is the father of Grace Medicine Flower and he sometimes collaborated on ceramic pieces with her.


Pieces

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