I am very pleased to offer the beautiful pottery of award-winning potter, Anita Suazo from Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. In the words of Smithsonian Institution Assistant Curator, William Merrill, “Anita Suazo is a contemporary master potter.” Born in 1937, she works with her husband Joseph Suazo. She comes from a long line of traditional Santa Clara Pueblo potters. She makes pots using the centuries old Pueblo coiling techniques, that is, free hand, without a potter’s wheel. She also uses such traditional implements as polishing stones. Firing is done outside with each pot supported on a rack, slabs of thin firewood built up around them and dried horse dung piled around the fire at just the right moment.It is a painstaking art to know how long to let the fire burn, when to pile on the dung to snuff out the oxygen and thus create a red or black pot. The weather, temperature, wind and moisture can determine a successful firing. When she was a small child, Anita began learning Santa Clara potting techniques from her mother, noted potter Belen Tapia. Except for a brief period when her five children were small, she has been making traditional Santa Clara pots for over 50 years.
Anita crafts top-quality red carved, red polychrome, black carved and black-on-black pottery. She uses only native clays, which she and her husband, Joseph, who is also a Santa Clara Indian, dig from the soil of Santa Clara Pueblo. Anita decorates her pots with rain clouds, kiva steps, water serpents, bears, bear paws, feathers, squash and other ancient stylized images. Her goal is to preserve and pass on traditional designs and techniques, which her people have used for many centuries.
Anita has taught traditional Indian pottery techniques in workshops for the University of New Mexico and the University of California at Davis. Her finely crafted pots are collected by buyers from all parts of the United States and around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection; the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico. She has won numerous awards at Indian Market, Santa Fe and the Eight Northern Pueblos Indian Arts and Crafts Show, New Mexico.
Anita enjoys creating artwork because “it makes me happy. I enjoy working with the clay. While I’m working on a pot, I focus all my attention on the pot, because when I’m finished, I can be proud of the work that I put into each piece. When I sign my name, I can say I did the work. Then others can also enjoy my artwork.”*
*Pueblo Indian Pottery, 750 Artist Biographies, by Gregory Schaaf.