WOW! This is an exceptional smaller jar by Tammy Garcia. The jar is carved on numerous levels with contrasting polished and matte surfaces. There are three heartline deer that are cut into the clay and they are polished red. By each deer there are either red or tan polished flowers. The deer are in panels carved at various levels into the clay. They are surrounded by stippling where Tammy textures the clay around the carved designs. There are 18 flowers carved into the jar. Each flower has four sections for a total of 72 carved and polished sections! Note that some flowers are polished red, some polished tan, and some are a combination of both! There is a band of six red and tan flowers that extend vertically on the jar from the neck to the base.
Tammy says of her designs:
“What has intrigued me about pottery is the stories present in the designs. You will often see animals or plants depcited. These were important to the makers. When it comes time for me design a piece, I reflect on what is important to me. I found that pottery in any style is a source for inspiration. I take inspiration from the Pueblo potters of the past and the serenity of their art that lasts over centuries.”
Note the stippling surrounding the designs. Stippling is a process by which the clay surface is punctured over and over to create a texture. It is a striking contrast to the polished and matte surfaces. The jar is a complex combination of designs, textures, and imagery. It is signed on the bottom “Tammy Garcia 2022”. Tammy has won numerous awards for her pottery and has been the recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s award. It’s not surprising that with the intricate nature of her pottery she makes only about ten pieces of pottery a year. Yet each piece is unique and expands on her distinctive style and voice in the clay.
Tammy says of her new evolving art in clay:
Do you think the idea of “Layers” applies to both your life and art? “We hear the terms “layers” and think about levels and a progression of one idea on top of another. I love to have options. To me the “layers” are options. It’s about quality. Native clay takes effort to dig and refine and temper. There are layers in just making the clay pure enough to coil a vessel. Because of that, with the little clay I have, my mindset has been quality, not quantity. My love for jewelry also reveals itself in the clay. I want to make each piece I make precious, jewel-like. My new “pillow effect” is really tapering. It’s achieved in the carving process. I do it so that the area surrounding the carved designs is higher and the edges are recessed. It makes the carving more delicate but also less fragile. I love the detail. When I’m carving a piece the smaller the carved line the more fragile. Each layer is a fragile, delicate balance of one design on top of another. I want to be able to get more detail and create the optical illusion of even more layers from a distance. I’ve been working to create even more detail in my work than ever before. “
“The stippling (little dots) on my pottery takes patience. It’s time-consuming and technical to make one dot at a time. I must wrap my fingers with cloth because the pressure of the metal on my hands begins to hurt. I can spend several days just stippling a single pot.”
Tammy Garcia is undoubtedly one of the most renowned Pueblo potters. She is the daughter of Linda Cain and sister to Autumn Borts-Medlock. She is also the granddaughter of Mary Cain, great-granddaughter of Christina Naranjo, and great-great-granddaughter of Sara Fina Tafoya. Tammy learned to make pottery from her mother and continues the Pueblo traditions of using native clay as the foundation. Her distinctive pottery bridges the gap between traditional and modern. The intricacy and precision of her carving are one of the attractions to her pottery and bronze art. Tammy’s pottery continues to evolve in new directions with each new idea.
Amazingly, Tammy Garcia makes less than ten pieces a year. This small number is a reflection of the time involved in each section. The building, designing, carving, polishing, and firing are labor-intensive. As a result of the time required, she never replicates a design or pot, which is part of her art’s dynamic process.
Tammy Garcia’s distinctive forms and imagery create “stories” on the vessels. Her designs inspired by Pueblo’s life, animals, insects, pueblo stories, or traditional images are traditional and contemporary. Her works’ surface is polished then carved, and there is always a fantastic balance of carved versus matte areas.
Tammy’s pottery is in permanent collections and museums worldwide, such as The Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, and The Autry Museum. She has won multiple awards for her pottery and, most recently, was the subject of a one-woman exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.