Clara Montoya

San Ildefonso Pueblo Artist Life Span: (1909 to ?)

Father: Montoya, Tomas

Mother: Pena, Reyes

Sibling: Martinez, Poveka Maria

Sibling: Vigil, Juanita

Sibling: Martinez, Anna Maximiliana

Sibling: Montoya, Desideria

One of the things I find very amazing is given the incredible history at San Ildefonso, the tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of pots that were made by Maria Martinez with help from her sisters including Clara Montoya, given all this, we currently know almost nothing about Clara Montoya’s own work.

Okay, maybe I'm a stickler for details and maybe I gravitate to the unusual or bizarre things but I guess I'm a little surprised there is still mainly unknown information about Clara Montoya.

So we took it upon ourselves to do a little digging in an attempt to clarify whether Clara did make pots that she signed on her own or did not and if she did make her own, what did they look like and what did her signature look like.

Sometimes in figuring out this kind of information you have to first eliminate potential candidates. One particular pot signed Clara S.I.P. is an excellent candidate to be a Montoya. However, we determined that particular pot is a Clara Martinez, daughter-in-law of Maria and Julian. (See Clara Martinez for more details)

One particular human characteristic that can really cause problems when trying to sort these things out is hope - hope and the desire to see a quick answer or conclusion to a problem. We may never really know if Clara Montoya did create her own pots and signed them. Most likely there is no quick and easy nor exact answer.

Okay, back to some more theory. Clara was well-known for her polishing of pots. It is well documented that she was Maria Martinez’s polisher and probably also polisher for many other people in the family. And she was very, very good at it. She was also somewhat handicapped having lost most of her hearing at a young age. According to Richard Spivey and others they believe that some of the Maria Martinez Pots were signed by Clara. This was allegedly done out of convenience given the fact Clara did the majority of the polishing and after finishing the polishing would just have to add a slip on the back and make a quick signature. The signatures in question are the ones with the circular dot used to dot the Is. Richard Spivey questioned Maria about this and my recollection from reading his book is that she said she was just trying a new tool out and the pots were indeed Maria signatures not her sister Clara.

Now here is where that hope and the desire for an elegant quick answer comes in. It's exciting perhaps, to believe this idea. I pretty much believed it myself or used to anyway - until I saw the pot below.

It's a simple pot, unpainted and well polished! Clara was never known for painting, only for polishing. So it makes sense that if she made a pot there is a good chance, unless she got help, that it wasn't painted. The signature speaks volumes. It is completely different than the Clara Martinez signatures. For selfish reasons I'm not going to show you the signature of this pot. So you are going to have to trust me here a little bit! In good time we’ll show the signature. But for now let me just say that it answers some questions and also creates some more questions. The bottom line is that several people at the San Ildefonso Pueblo strongly belief it is her signature, hence her pot.

Hopefully in the near future, we can view some more samples and either confirm or add more confusion to the Clara Montoya question.

The reason I brought up the current postulation that Clara Montoya signed some of Maria Martinez pots is this. The signature on this pot in my opinion, and others, is very much a different style than the signatures with the circle dot for the Is on Maria Martinez’s work. If this pot truly is a Clara Montoya pot then I believe in adds a little confusion as to whether Clara Montoya ever signed any of Maria's pots.

Recently I have viewed a handful of Clara Montoya’s signature from books that she signed. I also have seen about three pots with Clara Montoya’s signature. And now I do believe, from this information, that Clara could very well have been the "signer" of the circle I dotted pots by Maria. It sure is nice to have more information to try and draw conclusions with. I seem to flip flop more then a politician! I'll probably flip flop a few more times as more information rolls in!