© Laura Walker

Maria Martinez

It’s amazing when you think of all the things that Maria Martinez accomplished in her life and thereafter. In the late 1800s and early 20th century the world was changing the railroads were becoming the way to travel not only for shipping of goods but for people to come out West to vacation.

Sure Maria came along right when things were changing but there was no coincidence here. Maria took herself and San Ildefonso to world-wide recognition with her pottery work.

Ironically her family was not very excited about her marriage to Julian Martinez. He really didn’t have a craft or a sure way of providing for a wife and family. Julian could farm but he didn’t really like to farm nor did he have much land to be able the farm on. But Maria knew he was the one and she told her mother although life would be uncertain she was ready to devote herself to life with Julian.

It didn’t take long for Maria and Julian to start on their journey. Literally days after their marriage they went to the St. Louis World’s fair of 1904 to perform native dances and craftwork. They got paid well for their efforts although they were away from home for several months.

Then an amazing thing happened with the excavation of 1908 and 1909 by Dr. Edgar Lee Hewitt. While doing in the historical excavation just north of the San Ildefonso Pueblo the crew uncovered some prehistoric pottery which was different then the current San Ildefonso style.

Dr. Hewitt asked Maria if she could re-create the style of pottery they found in the expedition. And she did.

As Maria and Julian developed the new black on black style taken from the past it created a rush of popularity not seen before. With the advance of the railroad and more people being able to travel on vacation this combination created an explosion in San Ildefonso Pueblo pottery craft.

Maria passed away on July 20, 1980 a Sunday. She left us a great history and she also left us a lot of relatives who continued in her tradition. Many of her grandchildren, grand nieces grand nephews are currently excellent potters continuing the San Ildedfonso tradition including the black on black pottery. Sandra Chaparro her grand niece is one of the few continuing in the tradition of large plate designs.

Martha Appleleaf, Chimayo Trading Del Norte, San Ildefonso Pueblo Potter


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