"I am inspired by historical Pueblo pottery and continue to use some of the more classic designs"
Photo | Dana Waldon
Tammy Garcia was born into an eminent line of potters from the Santa Clara Pueblo, a line that boasts four generations of artists, including Serafina Tafoya, regarded as one of the finest Pueblo potters. Garcia learned the basics of pottery from watching her mother and grandmother at work, selling her first pot at the tender age of sixteen. Garcia carves her pots by etching the entire surface of the vessel, as opposed to a single band of design along the circumference. Although she draws inspiration from classic Pueblo motifs, she integrates non-traditional sources into her work. Recently Garcia has translated her imagery onto jewelry and glass. An exhibition of new works, including pottery will be on view at Blue Rain Gallery, 130 Lincoln Ave., Suite C, Santa Fe. Preview: Friday, August 17, from 8 to 9:45 a.m. Sale at 10 a.m.
How I Carve my Pots
I draw designs on the pots using a pencil while the pot is still moist. Using a variety of tools, I start the removal of clay around the designs. Different depths, tapers, shapes, and textures all take form in this stage. It is very detail-oriented work, and carving a single piece can take months. When the pot is dry, the refining process continues with the use of various tools including Exacto knives, precision screwdrivers, chisels, a near endless supply of more traditional clay tools, as well as the few odds and ends I’ve created myself. I’ve been collecting tools for 26 years, and to this day I still add to my collection.
Merging Classic Design and Modern Iconography
I am inspired by historical Pueblo pottery and continue to use some of the more classic designs. When I think of ancient pottery I’m reminded of the stories that are within the lines of a design. When I’m designing I think of what story I will be telling—this year, Picasso and thunderbirds have been the themes of my inspiration. On one pot, I have three Picasso women sitting on chairs among their collection of Pueblo pottery and paintings.
On another piece, a woman wears a turquoise bracelet. Picasso was once asked, “What is your favorite piece that you have painted?” He responded, “The next piece I make.”
I work in several mediums—coil-built pottery, bronze sculpture, and glass, as well as jewelry. I started making pottery when I was 16 years old, and as a teenager I became bored quickly if interesting things were not happening around me. I used pottery to motivate me, and spent time building different shapes, using other designs and working in various sizes, while incorporating the traditional methods I was being taught by my mother and grandmother.
Today, the materials and the sometimes unexpected designs I use are an example of how I strive to continue evolving—challenging the bonds between tradition and exploration.