Nathan Youngblood is the grandson of noted potter Margaret Tafoya and the son of Mela Youngblood; Nathan has a traditional legacy of highly polished deep carved pottery. In 1976 he moved in with his grandparents and began an intense apprenticeship making pottery under their guidance. Attention to the small details was also imparted to him by his mother and grandmother. His work's precision is particularly evident in his forms, which have near geometric perfection in shape and symmetry. Nathan says, “I realize I don’t make pots; I’m just involved in the process. The clay does what it wants to do, goes where it wants to go. I stick my hands in the clay, and where it goes, I follow.”
Nathan Youngblood's clay art has evolved dramatically throughout his career. His early work focused on classic Santa Clara shapes and designs. In the early 1990s, Nathan re-examined his experiences with art worldwide and how it could be incorporated as part of his designs. His love of Asian ceramics influenced how he designed his pottery and how he utilized matte and polished surfaces to emphasize form. The designs seemed to be more complicated, less linear, and more ethereal in concept. He “opened the door for other potters to use clay as a vehicle for their personal and cultural experiences.”
Over the years, Nathan has won over 140 awards for his pottery. He is one of only a handful of Santa Clara potters who use natural clay slips to create color contrasts of red and tan in his pottery. This combination of polished red and tan sections with matte or micaceous surfaces has become the new Santa Clara “polychrome.” Throughout his career, he has continually built on the lessons learned from his mother and grandmother. This legacy has created a solid foundation for the evolution of his pottery, and “he has set the bar high for any potter to balance creativity, innovation, and technical expertise.