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Native American Blackware Pottery Commands High Prices

How to identify authentic Martinez blackware pottery.

Marie/Maria Martinez (Maria Montoya Martinez) and her husband, Julian were the leaders of the modern potters at the San Ildefonso pueblo near Santa Fe, NM. The pair is credited with developing and implementing the key techniques and designs of both San Ildefonso and Santa Clara black ware or black on black pottery. Their work featured carved and matte decorations monochrome, polychrome, and black on black pottery.

Once Maria and Julian discovered how to produce the now-famous black-on-black pottery in 1918, the couple spent the remainder of their careers perfecting their technique and producing it for museums and collectors worldwide.

This style of blackware is achieved by using a polishing stone to smooth over a glossy finish prior to the firing of the pot creating a highly glossy design that has become the hallmark of pueblo pottery.

Maria Martinez is of the circle of other great pueblo potters such as Julian Martinez, Margaret Tafoya, Sefarina Tafoya, Rose Gonzales, Teresita Naranjo. She is in the lineage of Christina Naranjo and Sarafina Tafoya.

Dating Martinez pieces

Some Martinez pots are NOT signed. So, you should always have the pieces, not just the signatures, reviewed, researched and authenticated by an expert appraiser who can provide an accurate and proper evaluation of pueblo pottery.

Early works by Maria and Julian Martinez approximately between the years of 1918 to 1923 are unsigned. Pottery signed "Marie" was most likely made between 1920 and 1925 since it was made by Maria and then painted by Julian. Initially, husband Julian's name was omitted from the signature since making pottery was considered women's work. From 1925 until Julian's death in 1943, Maria shared the underside pottery signature with Julian and signed her name along with his as "Marie + Julian". These are some of the most desirable pots.

Following Julian's death in 1943, Maria and Julian's son Adam and his wife Santana helped an aging Maria with the design and firing of the pottery. Pieces made between 1943 and 1954 are signed "Marie + Santana". And, Maria often used "Marie" to sign her pots because she was told that Marie was a more common name to the non-Native American public. She therefore signed the name "Marie" on her pottery for about 30 years. In the middle part of the 1950s, Popovi Da began working with his mother, too and they also co-signed pieces. Popovi started putting a date on each piece around 1959.

Native American blackware pots are fragile and should be handled with care. Many collectors retain these striking pieces and the values of these works of art are quite high.  Small pots typically command upwards of $10,000. Exceptionally well designed or very large pieces can bring extremely high prices at auction and on the retail market. Museum quality pieces are often found by the family members of tourists who visited the pueblos in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, the Native Americans of the southwestern United States are still continuing the tradition of collecting pueblo pottery.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, award-winning TV personality, and TV talk show host, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on the hit TV show, Auction Kings on Discovery channel. Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.

paul haig July 07, 2012 at 11:35 PM
How about an artist named Carolina Maria gonzales

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