(1948 - )
Wanda Aragon is one of the foremost Acoma Pueblo potters. She comes from a long and distinguished line of pottery artists, learning originally from her mother, Francis Torivio (1905-2001), who was one of the greatest Acoma potters.
Pueblo pottery dates back as far as 150 CE and was entirely utilitarian. The arrival of railroads and tourists caused the emergence of pottery as art. Pottery artists of today make their pots in the same manner that their ancestors did in prehistoric times.
Wanda Aragon has researched traditional designs in museums throughout the country and believes strongly in keeping orthodox designs and techniques alive. She uses exclusively the natural shale-like clay found only at historic sites on the Acoma reservation. Aragon mixes this clay with ground pottery shards, also found on the reservation. Next her pots are hand coiled. No wheel is used. Coils, or ropes, of clay shape the pot coil-by-coil in an impressive symmetry. Pots are then dried, scraped with a piece of gourd, sanded, and slipped with a fine clay mixture that has been diluted to a creamy consistency. Black is derived from hematite, a mineral, boiled bee-weed and wild-spinach plant. The orange and red are clay that has been ground up and soaked in water to produce a thick 'paint'. Wanda uses a yucca brush to apply her intricate free-hand designs. Pots are then traditionally fired in an open-pit fire out of doors utilizing slabs of wood for fuel. The fire can be smothered with sheep manure to turn the clay a deep black color. Finally, Wanda polishes her pots over and over with a polishing stone that may have been handed down from generation to generation. This gives the pots their lasting and beautiful sheen.
Wanda Aragon began making pottery for the marketplace around 1965 and made her first storyteller in the early 1970s. Over the years she has also made storage jars, wedding vases, bowls, owl figures, bird effigy pots, canteens, Nativities, miniatures and human figures. Her favorite designs have been parrots, rainbows, deer with heart lines, clouds and berry bushes.
Wanda Aragon participated in her first SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in the early 1970s. In 1975, she started earning a long series of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, Best of Division and Best of Class ribbons everywhere from Santa Fe Indian Market to the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis and the Lawrence Indian Arts Show in Lawrence, KS. In 1987, she famously won First Place at the Santa Fe Indian Market for an 1890-design polychrome water jar.
Wanda Aragon's work is on display at several museums around the world. She usually signs her pieces DZINATS'ITUWITS'A but sometimes she will sign W. Aragon and sometimes she will sign both.