Born in 1906, Juanita was
active as a potter from the 1960's to the 1980's, and her students
included her sister in law, Helen Cordero. Helen became one of
the first and most famous makers of storytellers.
Helen Cordero began making clay persons in the late 1950s, she was 45
years old, the six children she had raised were grown, and she was
doing beadwork and leatherwork with her husband's cousin, Juanita
Arquero, to make a little extra money. Most of the profits, however,
had to be used to buy more materials. "Why don't you girls go back to
the potteries?" Fred Cordero's aunt, Grandma Juana, asked. "You don't
have to buy anything; Mother Earth gives it all to you."
Juanita, who had learned to make pottery as a child, "started up
again" and Helen spent six months learning the ancient art from her.
Juanita was already an accomplished potter, and in comparison, Helen's
bowls and jars didn't look right. "They just kept coming out all
crooked, and I was ready to quit," said Helen. "I didn't think I would
ever get it right."
suggested that Helen try figures. "It was like a flower blooming,"
said Helen. Small frogs, birds, animals and, eventually, "little
people" came to life in abundance.