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John Montoya
("Morning Star")


5w x 8h


October 2002




Commissioned by phone


This was our very first commissioned piece.  After hunting for a Sandia item for several years (15 years!), we saw a piece of John's on Ebay that we didn't win, and then one at the Indian Summer web site that was just sold.  So we determined to see if we could contact him directly.  After several attempts through the Sandia Pueblo, we called Bien Mur Indian Market north of Albuquerque and were kindly pointed in the right direction.

When we first contacted John, we asked for a traditional bowl; but after reading about John in Southern Pueblo Indian Pottery by Gregory Schaaf, we discovered that he also made owls effigies.  We excitedly called John and asked if it would be alright if we switched our request.  He was glad to do it.  John is proud of his owls and have made some twice the size as this one.  And every one of his pieces is filled with the detail of his painting.

This owl is made from clay gathered at the Jemez Pueblo and volcanic ash temper from Mt. Taylor.  The buff slip is also from Jemez and the red and black come directly from Sandia.  It is pit fired with manure on wire mesh with direct exposure to the fire.  The manure causes it to first turn black during the firing and is then the black burns off to expose the designs.  This owl is a beautiful gem!  It displays John's smooth work with hand coiled pottery and shows off his excellent artistic skills.



John Montoya started out by painting on ceramics while in his teens. He shared ideas with his cousin, Robert Montoya as they each advanced their skills.  During the mid 1970's, he served his country in the US Navy and then returned to Albuquerque and Sandia Pueblo to continue his artistic progress.

When he arrived at the point where he wanted to learn the methods of traditional pottery, he approached a potter from another Pueblo with the customary gift of tobacco.  However, the potter held personal beliefs that the knowledge of pottery should be a privately developed skill and  that  the Clay Mother is the best teacher. 

This turned out to be a good lesson for John since he was able to develop his own style, with only the knowledge of tradition to guide him.  So he set out to learn this skill for himself.  Using commercial clay at first, he started to make his first pot.  It was thick and crude, but he continued to practice and then started using local clay and paints.


As time progressed, John has turned into an excellent potter.  So good, that some have said incorrectly that he occasionally makes pottery using a wheel.  He is a traditional potter that stays true to the traditional ways. 

John continues to live in Albuquerque and produces some very fine traditional pottery.  We have found his pieces online on Ebay as well as at the Indian Summer, Andrea Fischer and  Fine Pueblo Pottery web sites.  He's listed in Hayes & Blom 1996,  Berger and Schiffer 2002 and Schaaf 2002.

Special note: Our experience with John was rich with New Mexico culture.  When you enter that culture, you take a step away from our normally hurried world.  The native people there have a wonderful approach to life that does not include the relatively aggressive nature found in the population centers of America.  Thank you John, for sharing such wonderful memories - as well as the fabulous pottery!


Picture and more of John's pottery from Ebay member: kaleonard