Isabel was a part of the pottery boom in the early 1900s. Not a lot is known about her.
Though Isabel’s grandmother was Cipriana Pena who is also the great grandmother of Maria Martinez, both were foster relationships, hence Isabel Pena and Maria Martinez are not related by blood.
We have seen many of her pieces and I get the perception that she was fairly prolific despite the lack of information about her.
A good percentage of here work that we have seen is carved pieces - which are our favorite. As many potters do, we see some really nice work and some work that is average. These average pieces were probably put together quickly to sell.
Her signature can be confused with Isabel Montoya Atencio when Pena signs just "Isabel." So far we have only seen two Isabel Atencio signatures and it is fairly easy to tell the difference. However, we have seen a lot of sellers miss identify a Pena as an Atencio – usually a naive mistake.
We have seen two base styles so far. One is the typical well defined flat bottom.
The other style is a more rounded, not always uniform, bottom. The later is usually signed “Isabel Pena.”
Perhaps the “rounded bottom” pieces was her earlier work.
Her great grandson, Elvis Torres carries on her work and is one of the leading potters at San Ildefonso today.