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I learned by watching and helping my mother (Margaret Tafoya).

The Toni Roller Indian Pottery Studio & Gallery is located at Santa Clara Pueblo, 1 miles south of Espanola, New Mexico on Los Alamos Highway 30.  Follow the Toni Roller Pottery signs off Highway 30 to the Studio & Gallery; see directions to visit us (see "Visit us" page).

All year round, Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM, any certain step or steps in the process of Traditional Santa Clara Pueblo pottery making, and even firing, may be seen when a resident potter or potters are at work.  Also, all year The Gallery has the Traditional Santa Clara Pueblo pottery on display, and for sale, by featured artists Toni Roller, Cliff Roller, Jeff Roller, Shirley Tafoya, Mary Archuleta, Margaret Tafoya, and when available, others of the Margaret Tafoya family & extended family.

In addition to the year round exhibits at the Toni Roller Gallery, the first show of each year attended by Toni Roller, Cliff Roller and Jeff Roller, with their pottery, is The Heard Museum Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix, Arizona held every year on Saturday & Sunday of the first full week end in March.

Then the Roller artists always attend the annual Santa Fe Indian Market also, on Saturday & Sunday the 3rd week end of August or the 4th week if the month has 5 weekends.  They usually win awards when entering their pottery for judging.

At a 1993 Inaugural Festival, in Washington, D.C., Toni Roller was interviewed by a journalist.   She recalled her early childhood, making her first pot at the age of six.  However, 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 [Margaret Tafoya] was firing her pots."

Toni also recounted her life, raising seven children 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.

Today, Toni Roller is admired for her refined style and high quality.  She explained the high standards she sets 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."  In 1996, Toni was recognized as the "Guest of Honor" at the 25th anniversary of the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show.

In this same year, Toni expressed her commitment as an artist for an Artist Database compiled by SWAIA, the organization that produces Indian Market in Santa Fe: "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."

In November 1998, Toni compiled a new biographical data sheet.  Under the heading "Background," the artist stated:

"I learned to make the Traditional hand made, black and carved, Santa Clara Indian pottery from my mother, Margaret Tafoya, the famous Santa Clara Pueblo potter who was a 1984 winner of the National Heritage Fellowship Award for the Arts."


Margaret Tafoya

"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 (see "Book" page)."

"1968 was the first year I sold my pottery.  I sell my pottery at my home Studio/Gallery in Santa Clara Pueblo.  My pottery has gone to collectors all over the U.S., Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, Denmark, Holland, Australia and Italy."

In the spring of 1999, we visited Toni and her husband, Ted, at their home gallery in Santa Clara.  She was working with the clay in her studio when we arrived.  She explained the purpose of her studio was to show the traditional ways of pottery making.

In a second meeting weeks later, Toni provided the following statement: "Toni Roller, granddaughter of Sara Fina Tafoya and daughter of Margaret Tafoya, says that the meaning of 'traditional' in pottery making has been misrepresented by many, including some Santa Clara Pueblo Indian Artists.  Some of these artists say, and some collectors believe that the use of, what they think are, traditional shapes, designs and carvings make the pottery traditional, but this is not true.  Shaping, carving, incising, or any other decorating styles in pottery are forms of expressing one's artistic talent when advancing in new directions, but this could be in traditional or non-traditional pottery.  The Margaret Tafoya family uses traditional Pueblo designs, but many other Santa Clara potters use animal, bird, and human or Katchina designs because they cannot explain the meanings of the traditional designs.  Also young artists may not know that human and Katchina figures must not be used in Pueblo pottery according to our traditional Indian beliefs."

"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, so that kind of pottery cannot be called 'traditional' and such work is not authentic Santa Clara traditional art as taught to us by our ancestral potters and passed down, through Sara Fina and Margaret Tafoya to our families.  Santa Clara pottery that is made with commercial materials was referred to by my mother, Margaret, as 'fake' Santa Clara Pottery."

"One can tell commercial clay pottery because they usually have thin walls which we cannot have with our natural clay because we screen it through fine screens to get smooth finishes, then our thin walls would not have enough strength and would not allow us to do our carvings."

"If Pueblo potters will not show you how they mix their clay, or how they make and fire their pottery, you cannot trust that it is traditional pottery.  Judges at pottery shows such as Santa Fe Indian Market or anywhere must consider if pottery is traditionally or non-traditionally made."

Toni explained that she enjoyed creating pottery, because "I am helping the traditional, Santa Clara Pueblo pottery making art, as given to us by our ancestors."

We are thankful Toni Roller and many of her family members were helpful and were supportive of our efforts.  We recommend Toni Rollers' book, "Indian Pottery by Toni Roller of Santa Clara Pueblo" to our readers, as an excellent, step-by-step guide to traditional pottery making techniques in the Tafoya family tradition (see "Book" page).

Courtesy of "Pueblo Indian Pottery: 750 Artist Biography", Volume 2 by Gregory Schaaf
 

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