Have you heard about the Free Indian Market?

On Aug. 17 and 18, our pottery and paintings will be at the Free Indian Market in the Scottish Rite Center. We invite all people to view the art, to meet the artisans and to be sure to buy an art piece to be treasured by you and your family.

We have now come full circle. Back to the oldest system of free trade, barter and selling to people who desire to purchase our goods. Unlike days of old, we artisans now accept plastic credit cards, checks and cash. Cash always tops the sales.

Natural artistic flow of talent leads many Native American Indian people back to connect with their unbroken chain in their tribal arts. The talent is a valuable heritage. To nourish the gift takes fortitude.

I value my Tewa clay heritage. Pottery is in my blood. My veins carry fluids of grey volcanic sand and brown-colored dirt, which, as it travels throughout my body, becomes a tan earth pigment. Clay.

My creative mind flexes my fingers and my hands to form vessels; we begin as children to form shapes of clay into small animals and mini bowls. Some crude art objects are pleasing only to my family. I alone will decide what is to be my livelihood in the future. My tendency toward getting a formal education is instilled by family members nudging me to go to college. I was told to see the world, travel and meet different people, but come back home to help my people.

I come from a family of famous San Ildefonso Pueblo potters and watercolor artists. But at a young age I did not comprehend the full meaning of “famous.” My family members “enlighten” the world.

Unknowingly, my great-grandmother, Maria Martinez, influenced my life. I lived with her until the age of 11. While I was under her care, people would come to meet her or just to see her coiling her “pots.” I was all eyes! I was happy to be with her. She would hand me some clay to keep me busy while she worked making bowls. I was assimilating and ingesting clay knowledge.

I experienced clay throughout my lifetime as a great-grandchild of Maria and Julian, as a grandchild of Adam (Maria’s eldest son) and Santana, and as a daughter of my mother, Anita. They were all potters and watercolor artists. Life was a set pattern of everyday potters’ work. Working with wet cay, dry pots, polishing slip designing and “firing” became a way of earning a livelihood.

Indian markets were a whole new experience of adventure. There was the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles, Gallup’s Native Arts Market and the Santa Fe Indian Market, where I slept under the portal with my great-grandmother. Our spot was saved for selling black pottery for sale the next day.

Married to my husband, Robert, we have four sons. They were reared around dry and wet clay through out their lifetime. They are familiar with the “pitfalls” and “trials” of clay works. Our eldest, Cavan, is an accomplished artist of red, black and San Ildefonso polychrome pottery, Aaron is a potter and paints on animal bones. Brandan, our third son, makes bowls. Derek is into graphic designs. Come see our clay endeavors at Sunbeam in San Ildefonso Pueblo.

I am Barbara “Tahnmoowhe” Gonzales, still a struggling artist and potter until my veins stop moving my life force.

Barbara “Tahnmoowhe” Gonzales is a San Ildefonso potter and great-granddaughter of Maria Martinez.