The Pottery of the Santo Domingo
Aanto Domingo's Indian name is Guipi, "The Unknown", and the pueblo remains unknowable to outsiders. Historically, the craft of choice was jewelry that featured handmade heishi, turquoise beads and unusual inlay work with shell, turquoise, jet, and bone. Even though this pueblo made Kiua and Santo Domingo Polychrome pottery, and added its own style of black on black pieces, no one took much notice of it through the 1940's. After World War II many of its resident artists were lured into the Indian jewelry craze of the 1970's and pottery production spiraled further downward. However, a few potters continued to develop their craft and several strong pottery families emerged. By 1945 Santona Melchor became the most important potter in Santo Domingo. Others gradually followed; Helen Bird, with her polished redware, Mark Wayne Garcia's fastidiously painted ware, and Josie Martinez's accomplished blackware. These days the Aguilar family produces its well known blackware, as well as a variant of the early Kiua geometric, in which the cream colored slip is now covered almost entirely with red and black. And who could miss the wonderful work of the Tenorio family and their engaging story of Juanita Ortiz's son, Robert, who was slated to be trained as a jeweler but who kept wandering into the pottery classroom to get his hands on the clay. As they say, the rest is history, with Robert coaxing his sisters and their husbands into the creation of ever more finely made and beautifully decorated pieces. Every twentieth-century pottery renaissance has been lead by a family that mixed tradition, innovation, and marketing acumen in equal measure. The Tenorios seem to have the skill and the energy to bring Santo Domingo pottery back to life.