Urgent Museum Notice

Maria Martinez

Photo of an older woman working a ball of clay that she holds in her hands. She has grey hair cut just below the ear, medium skin tone and wears a blue dress and beaded necklaces of white, blue, red and silver. She is engrossed in the clay, her movements practiced.

Photo by Susan Peterson, courtesy of the Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ, USA, © Susan Peterson

1887–1980

Many of Martinez’s family members were involved in producing pots, and she learned to make pottery in the traditional way—watching her aunt and grandmother work. By age thirteen, she was already celebrated within the tribe for her creative skills.

She and her husband, Julian Martinez, revived an ancient local process for making the all-black pottery. Their blackware stood in marked contrast to the all-red or polychrome ware that had dominated the pueblo’s production for generations.

By the mid-1920s, Martinez’s blackware had become extremely popular outside the pueblo, thanks to a book published by the director of director of the Museum of New Mexico. Martinez was encouraged to sign her pots, which were beginning to be regarded as works of art rather than household or ritual vessels.

Martinez was awarded two honorary doctorates, had her portrait made by the noted American sculptor Malvina Hoffman, and in 1978 was offered a major exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Maria Martinez
  • Birth

    San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1887
  • Death

    San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1980
  • Phonetic Spelling

    mah-REE-ah mahr-TEE-nehs

Works by Maria Martinez

Jar

Maria Martinez made this jar by mixing clay with volcanic ash found on her pueblo and building up the basic form with coils of clay that she scraped and smoothed with a gourd tool. Once the jar had dried and hardened, she polished its surface with a small stone. Her husband Julian then painted on the design with liquid clay,...

Blackware pottery vessel with a wide mouth and bulbous body that tapers to a narrow base. The pot is adorned with geometric tribal patterns pesented in a matte finish on the glossy surface.