Pueblo: San Juan Ohkey Owingeh Pueblo

Tomasita Montoya was one of the original seven potters in the 1930’s “San Juan Revival.”

In 1930 Regina Cata organized a pottery study group at San Juan Pueblo with the intent of revitalizing pottery production. The group studied ancient potsherds of wares made at San Juan in earlier times and selected Potsuwi‘i Incised Ware (1450-1500) as a basis for a contemporary pottery type. By the 1950s, further development resulted in deeply carved polychrome wares, and incised wares, both of which are still being produced today

Tomasita was especially known for her incised red ware jars, bowls and vases. Decoration on these vessels was primarily fine line geometric hatching. On occasion she utilized micaceous clay, adding some texture and sparkle to the geometric elements. Tomasita also made deeply carved polychrome pieces which included designs of clouds, kiva steps, and plants.

Her work is included in several museums and publications referencing her significant contribution to San Juan Ohkey Owingeh Pueblo pottery.

The Pueblo had a wonderful history of pottery making, but by about 1890 there were no potters left. Al Anthony of the Adobe Gallery in Santa Fe thinks that is because the Pueblo was so close to Espanola, only a few miles away, that the availability of commercial goods made pottery unnecessary for everyday life. In the 1930s, Tomasita and seven other potters took on the task of revitalizing the art form. Their pottery was fairly heavy, but had a beautiful brown polished look and the soft, unpolished tan was accented by the mica in the clay. They were distinctive and unique pieces. Her daughters Dominguita Naranjo and Rosita de Herrera both followed their mother’s footsteps making pottery.

The gallery is delighted to have pieces of Tomasita Montoya’s pottery; for without her work, the art of pottery at Ohkay Owingeh might never have made it back.