Her name alone describes her work and her persona - Grace. Grace Medicine Flower is an elegant beauty among Santa Clara potters, who continues to be one of the most innovative and influential potters working today. Her intricately designed butterflies and hummingbirds remind the viewer of our delicate relationship with nature. Each piece is a reflection of her connection to the earth, the Clay Lady, and the traditional and history of the Santa Clara Pueblo.
As a child, Grace was surrounded by potters such as her mother Agapita, her father Camilio Tafoya, and her aunt, Margaret Tafoya. She began to work in clay, making traditionally styled pottery. In the late 1960s, Grace and her brother Joseph were among the first on Santa Clara to start using the sgraffito technique to carve their designs into the clay. Amazingly, Grace uses a knife or a specially sharpened nail to cut and create her masterpieces. Grace recounts how her first piece of sgraffito pottery sold for $11.00, much more than her other traditional pieces. Her early pieces were signed, “Grace Hoover,” then they were signed with “Grace and a four-petal flower. Today, she signs her work, “Grace Medicine Flower,” with a flower beneath her name. All of her work is made in the traditional coil method and then pit fired outside.
Grace Medicine Flower has significant recognition throughout her career for her innovation. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis have visited her, invited to the White House, and has pieces in collections and museums around the world. In the 1970s, Grace and Joseph were both honored with the New Mexico Medal of Honor for their contribution to Santa Clara Pueblo. In addition to these honors, Grace has won significant awards at Gallup Ceremonials and other events.
Grace’s work continues to evolve. Moving from small round seed pots with incised animal designs, Grace now creates a larger bowl, which combines deep carving with intricately engraved sections. Her latest innovation is the “basket weave” bowls, which gives the effect of an exposed basket lying just underneath the surface of the clay. One can only suspect that Grace has even more innovations ready to be presented to the public. To say that Grace Medicine Flower has changed the face of pueblo pottery would not be an understatement. To own one of her pieces it to own a part of history. While she produces less than 15 pieces a year, the demand among collectors for her new pieces continues to rise with each new year and modern innovation.