Debra (Trujillo) Duwyenie
Native clay, hand formed, polished and capped with images of mountains,clouds and feathers distinguish the exceptional pottery of Debra Trujillo-Duwyenie. Debra is known for her highly polished small seed pots decorated with turtles,hummingbirds, rabbits, and sunface's. The polish and impeccable designs of her pots can be used as a standard against which to judge other pots.
Born in Espanola just outside the pueblo, Debra has been a lifelong resident of Santa Clara. She is the middle child having three sisters and two brothers. While growing up, her summers were spent with her grandparents in Central Colorado at Manitou Springs, where they were the year-round caretakers of a Museum called Cliff Dwellings. Speaking only in the Tewa, her grandfather sang to the children and and told stories of his days at the Carlisle Indian School and of his adventures as a soldier during World War II. Her grandmother made them all traditional clothing.
Debra speaks the Tewa language whenever possible, but her children only understand what is being said and are unable to express themselves in Tewa.Like many in the pueblo, Debra is a grandparent at a young age and her Tewa is spoken to entertain the grand baby who has Pueblo, Hopi, and Navajo blood.
Debra has been potting on a regular basis since 1979. She learned from her mother, Genevieve Gutierrez. Genevieve was a homemaker working with pottery to supplement the family income. She sold pots to visitors at the village and at shows including the Eight Northern Pueblo show, and Indian Market. Today the entire family is involved in pottery using principals taught by her mother. Because her mother made much larger pots greater quantities of clay were required. All the children participated in the gathering, sifting and mixing of clay. She recalls how all the children would take off their shoes to walk around in the clay and white sand in order to mix them together.
Having recently left her position as assistant to the dean at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Debra is now a full time potter. In addition to creating multiple varieties of pottery shapes and sizes, she is also involved with marketing to galleries and attending a rigorous schedule of art shows.
Whether she is making her classic Santa Clara red or black pottery, all of Debra's pots begin with finely sifted clays extracted from areas along the Rio Grand River. Buff colored clay comes from the Gales region of New Mexico, south of Santa Fe. Her red slip comes from an area near Santo Domingo Pueblo. Using cord wood, horse and cow manure, Debra's pots are fired in an area behind her house. She prefers a fire that increases in temperature slowly and allowed to cool slowly. It is not uncommon however,for her pottery to be pulled from the fire and taken directly to a show while warm.
Designs are etched into the exterior surface of each pot by scraping away the polished surface to reveal the buff colored clay beneath. The contrast between the highly polished red and black surfaces and the flat colored textured clay is the basis of all scraffito style pottery decoration. Using flexible circle and oval templates, Debra strikes her first lines with precision. Utilizing sharply pointed scribes, cut from the handles of chain-saw files,Debra carefully exposes subsurface clay.
Debra is known for her turtle designs. Multiple turtles are often seen on her pots each of which will have a distinctive shell pattern. Classic Pueblo pottery designs including feathers, mountains, clouds, together with clan symbols are also found on Debra's pottery.