Pueblo: Santa Clara Pueblo

“I learned by watching and helping my mother and now I am the oldest working Margaret Tafoya family potter.  I have sold my art since 1968.”

Toni RollerSo begins Toni Roller’s account of her life in pottery. As the daughter of Margaret Tafoya and the granddaughter of Sara Fina Tafoya, pottery is and has been a family tradition.

She recalled her early childhood of making her first pot at the age of six.  However, at that time she was more interested in making clay marbles: “I would make marbles out of clay and throw them in the fire to cook while my mother was firing her pots.”

Raising seven children with her husband, Ted, left her with little time to make pots.  “I would work on the dining room table during the day and pick it all up at night when it was time for supper.”  Just as she practiced patience in raising her children, her artwork displays similar qualities of great care. Her pottery is admired for its refined style and high quality.  Toni sets high standards for her work: “If I’m going to have my name on something, I want it to be perfect.  If it has sandpaper scratches or anything like that, I’ll do it again.”  She -and her family- do not sell pottery that has imperfections.

“I learned to make pottery when I was a little girl and kept with the traditional process, styles and designs through the years.  Improvements in quality and finish are what I strive for and those are the only variations from the pottery of my ancestors.  I use only natural clays, form my pottery by hand and fire them in an open, outdoor fire just as they were done for centuries.  The amount of work I put into my pottery shows that the quality is more than for utilitarian use but as works of art. I use only natural materials from Mother Earth, and I fire my pottery in an outdoor bonfire.  I demonstrate my pottery making and have written a book on it.”

Toni explained that she enjoyed creating pottery, because “I am helping to keep the tradition of Santa Clara Pueblo pottery making art as given to us by our ancestors. Traditional pottery is pottery that is made completely of natural materials from Mother Earth and fired in outdoor fires.  Using commercial clays, paints, and kiln firing is definitely not taken from our ancestors. Santa Clara traditional art as taught to us by our ancestral potters and passed down, through Sara Fina and Margaret Tafoya to our families.”

The Toni Roller Indian Pottery Studio & Gallery is located at Santa Clara Pueblo.

Adapted from: http://www.toniroller.com and a video of Toni discussing how her pottery is made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cev-9S4fK_Y