(Circa 1863-1950)                                      
Pueblo: Santa Clara Pueblo

Sara Fina TafoyaPerhaps the most influential potter among the Pueblo in the early 1900s was Sara Fina Tafoya–Autumn Leaf. She stands at the crown of a family tree representing one of the most outstanding families in Santa Clara pottery.  Her descendants include such renowned potters as Margaret Tafoya, Camilio (Sunflower) Tafoya, Christina Naranjo, Joseph Lonewolf, Grace Medicine Flower, Toni Roller and her children Jeff Roller and Cliff Roller; Mela Youngblood and her children Nathan and Nancy Youngblood; and Tammy Garcia, among many others. Serafina’s granddaughter, Teresita Naranjo, was among the first to expand the area of carving to cover more of the entire vessel.

The correct spelling of her grandmother’s name is Sara Fina, not Serafina or Sarafina. Since she spoke no English and could not write (although she spoke Tewa and Spanish), her pottery is usually unsigned, except for those signed for her by her children. Most of her work today must be attributed to her hand by comparing them to pieces in collections which are known to be her work, which is fairly easy due to the high quality of her pottery.

Sara Fina was known for her exceptionally large storage jars created mainly in black. She also made smaller utilitarian forms in black, red, and micaceous clay. Beginning in the 1920s, Sera Fina took the technique of hand-impressing one step further by gouging and then smoothing bear paw and water serpent designs into her pottery.  This led to the development of deeper and more clean-edged carving, with the carved designs at first limited to a wide band around the midsection of the pot (such as in the pottery of her children and other family members).

During the late 1920s, the buying public was developing a demand for higher quality pottery. By the early 1930s Sara Fina and her children were selling their pottery in Taos, Santa Fe and at the pueblo. They were also winning awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market.