San Ildefonso Pottery
San Ildefonso Pueblo
English Pronunciation: “San Ill-day-fon-so”
Traditional Name: Po-woh-ge-oweenge “Where the water cuts through.”
San Ildefonso pottery is one of the best-known art forms of the New Mexico Pueblos because of the famous black-on-black pottery which originated there and which was revived in the nineteen-twenties.
At that time San Ildefonso Pueblo, like many other Pueblos, was suffering a severe economic depression. Long-standing internal conflicts, encroachment upon tribal lands by squatters and illegal cutting of timber all contributed to the low subsistence level to which the Pueblo had fallen. When American Indian crafts began to be popular with collectors, it was fortunate for the San Ildefonso people, because although the Pueblo population was small, there were a number of skilled artisans, makers of pottery and painters, who set to work to improve the economic condition of the Pueblo. Before long, the outstanding quality of San Ildefonso pottery became known. It was then that the famous black pots were revived, primarily because of Maria Martinez.
Today, they command the respect of worldwide collectors of fine art. Other artists, potters, and watercolor painters came to the attention of the public and although the Pueblo is one of the smallest in population, it is among the best known.
The San Ildefonso people have lived in the present site since before thirteen hundred A.D. They have a strong sense of identity and retain ancient ceremonies and rituals tenaciously, as well as tribal dances.
A particularly important festival is the Buffalo Deer Dance, performed in San Ildefonso’s feast day.