Jennifer Tafoya’s distinctive renditions of sgraffito Santa Clara pottery begins with hikes into the mountains of her native New Mexico. It is here where she uncovers the elements the pots are made of.
“I was in Silver City hiking with my sister around an old abandoned iron ore mine,” says Tafoya. “ I looked down and saw something, possibly old iron ore or hematite, so I picked it up, brought it home and grinded it and that became the dark purple you see in my work.”
The same goes with the sage green and light blue found in her work. These were minerals Tafoya found while hiking in Abiquiu. In fact, all the colors Tafoya uses—from the orangey-reds to the pinks and greenish-browns—are colors that Tafoya first finds in nature as minerals, then takes home, grinds and uses to paint her intricate sgraffito designs.
As for subject matter it is all about animals and fish. And not just any fish. The trout Tafoya replicates are ones she has caught herself in places like Glenwood, Eagle Nest, Heron and the Chama River. Along with other traditional animals like mountain lions, skunks and deer, Tafoya also utilizes beautifully detailed Chinese dragons, dinosaurs and brightly colored birds.
“Jennifer Tafoya has created a distinctive style of Santa Clara sgraffito pottery, combining realism in clay with natural clay slips for coloration,” says Charles King, who represents Tafoya’s work at King Galleries in Scottsdale and Santa Fe. “The importance of her pottery is not just in the technique, but in expanding the narrative of designs to often include inspiration from Asian imagery combined with Pueblo designs. The challenge for collectors of her work is to anticipate her next series, as it extols her creative energy.”
Joshua Rose is currently a Senior Vice President at the Santa Fe Art Auction, responsible for Native Art and Fine Art. Previously, he spent the last 15 years as the editor of American Art Collector, Western Art Collector, Native American Art Magazine and American Fine Art Magazine. He currently resides in Santa Fe and Phoenix, Arizona.