x 6" D
Robert Tenorio was born in
1950 into the Santo Domingo Kewa Pueblo. He has been
working with clay since the age of 10. He was taught all the
fundamentals of hand coiling pottery using ancient traditional
methods from his family members. Lupe Tenorio shared some of
her special techniques with Robert. He was also inspired to continue
the long lived family tradition from the admiration he had for
old pottery from his village.
Robert is one of the foremost
pueblo potters. He wins ribbons regularly at Santa Fe Indian
Market and other prestigious competitions. His work is among the most traditional of any potters
working today. All of his pieces are hand coiled and fired outdoors
with cottonwood bark. He is especially well known for creating
some of the largest pieces produced by any pueblo potter.
Robert began his career by
studying jewelry making. In 1968, he enrolled at the Institute
of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Learning to make jewelry
"was the popular thing then," he recalls, plus "I
wanted to make jewelry to help with the family." Robert,
however, soon found himself next door in the ceramics class,
"stealing their clay and potting away"
Robert began by making stew
bowls for his mother. When other women at the Pueblo saw them,
they wanted bowls too and so Robert's mother was constantly at
the school asking him to make more bowls.
In those days, Robert's bowls
were made from stoneware, a type of processed clay that is fired
in a kiln. Today, Robert uses native clays and traditional firing
The black on Robert's pottery
usually comes from the Rocky Mountain bee plant. "We boil
the whole plant," he says, however he has discovered that
boiling almost any kind of plant will produce a black juice.
Robert prefers the bee plant because in the old days "it
was our people's food, and it's still present in our food. We
call it wild spinach."
In thinking about his distinguished
career, Robert observes: "I don't ever want to become too
famous or too rich. We're all striving for life, and pottery
is bringing me and my family life. I feel I was put in this world
to revive Santo Domingo pottery. And now that I've done that,
I feel good about it. I'm content. Everybody living will go,
but my pots will stay here on this earth forever."