When we first started collecting San Ildefonso pottery we were told that there was an
ample supply of Juanita Vigil's work. We were glad to here this, knowing she passed away
73 years ago. As we saw more shows and auctions we started seeing pots signed Juanita.
Much to our surprise no one could tell us which Juanita it was! The more we learned the
more perplexing it has become in determining the differences between Juanita Vigil,
Juanita Gonzalez and Juanita Pena.
Just recently we made another trip to the San Ildefonso Pueblo where we spoke with
relatives of Juanita Gonzalez, Juanita Pena and Juanita Vigil. After speaking with them
and reviewing several pictures of pots and signatures, it has become very obvious that the
answer to our Juanita questions is far from our grasp. Ironically, the more we've learned
over the last few months the farther we are from recognize the differences between these
Again this brings up my age-old hypotheses that human beings naturally focus on a quick
and elegant answer - ignoring the obvious route that will be much more difficult. Sitting
down with Paul Elmore of Steve Elmore Indian Art woke us up to the somewhat obvious
realization that just reviewing signatures was not going to help us distinguish between
these three potters. Much more research was going to be needed. I guess my own ego was
hoping that I can parade around auctions and galleries and be able to tell the difference
of these three by just looking at the signature.
Just to fill in a little of the background I'll tell you a few things that we found out.
First off we found in Al Hayes's book "Southwestern Pottery - Anasazi to Zuni" a note that
he and Richard Howard had observed a characteristic in Juanita Vigil's signature that
distinguishes it from Juanita Gonzales. Now this is cool - and an elegant and quick
answer! Then I found a very beautiful carved pot that was signed Juanita - so I sent a
picture of the pot and the signature off to Mr. Hayes. First he looked at the signature
and said yes, this definitely is Juanita Vigil. Then he looked at the pot and said this
is definitely Juanita Gonzales' work! This is good!
We really didn't know whose pot it is. Doing a little research we ran through several
Tony and Juanita Pena signatures and one of the Juanita Pena signatures was a dead ringer
for this Juanita signature. We feel pretty confident that this pot is Juanita Pena pot.
Now here is where the fun starts! In our recent trip to San Ildefonso Pueblo we ran
across a couple more Tony and Juanita pots where the distinguishing characteristic
signature was quite different in Juanita as compared to the other Tony and Juanita pots
and of course are Juanita pot. Hence Tony's Juanita definitely signed her name slightly
differently over the course of time. So much for this great solution! There is
documentation in Greg Schaaf's book "Pueblo Indian Pottery", page 210, that identifies
three ways she signed including the single "Juanita".
All-in-all we are left utterly perplexed. I'll even use the word confused! It is obvious
that Paul Elmore is right and we'll have to look for documented examples of Juanita Vigil
before we can get closer to answer this problem.
We have come across two pieces that we believe to be Juanita Vigil's work. In the future
we will give more details on why we believe this. The two pieces are shown below. Soon we
will show you the signatures which aid in the identification. We have done some pretty
good homework and I am relieved to see some possible defining conclusions. There is still
more work to be done on this one, but the pieces are coming together nicely.
If you have any information on this please contact us - we'd love to hear from you.
One of the few Juanita Vigil pieces we have found. The signature is very distinctive and unique from Juanita Pena and Juanita Gonzales.
We found this Juanita Vigil in a museum in Florida. Again the signature is very unique from Juanita Pena and Juanita Gonzales.