Santo Domingo Pueblo Jewelry Maker (Depression, Traditional, Contemporary)

In the tradition of Native American jewelry, Mary Louise Tafoya’s jewelry is constantly evolving while paying homage to the formerly-known-as-pueblo of Santo Domingo. A turquoise heishi necklace by Mary Tafoya involves freeform mosaic inlay techniques of such sophistication, even seasoned collectors have mistaken sections of Tafoya’s jewelry as having been painted, so fine are her details and colors.

Every piece of material Tafoya uses – be it shells or natural stones, like turquoise – is hand-cut at original angles that requires patient precision to inlay, which separates her from all other Santo Domingo Pueblo jewelry makers. She searches for the most uniquely shaped shells to work with and scours the ends of the earth for turquoise of the most perfect green or blue overtones to create a vision all of her own. 

Early Life of Santo Domingo Jewelry Maker, Mary Tafoya

Mary Tafoya was born into a family of jewelry makers on the former Santo Domingo Pueblo, now known as the Kewa Pueblo. Raised among ten other siblings, Tafoya was patiently taught from a young age how to make traditional Santo Domingo jewelry by her two talented Native American artist parents, Frank and Anita Coriz.

Mary Tafoya thunderbird necklace
Turquoise Thunderbird depression style necklace by Mary Tafoya

This piece emulates the Thunderbird necklaces made in Santo Domingo Pueblo during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, which once used car battery and LP record materials.

The creative process of Mary Tafoya

Tafoya credits the patience shown by her parents with helping her designs today. Her art requires immense concentration in execution, but surprisingly, not as much planning. While she does have a vague plan for the materials used and a general design, it is not uncommon for Mary Tafoya to not know herself how a finished piece will turn out, relying on ancestral instincts to determine when it’s complete.

Whether she is making earrings, necklaces, or anything else, no two pieces of jewelry are ever alike. That said, many of her pieces incorporate a segment of serpentine, often with jet stone, and her shellwork can include spiny oyster, purple mussel, and tiger shells. Later pieces use silver to create more glittery designs, no doubt inspired by her jewelry-making and silversmithing artist husband, Lorenzo Tafoya.

Mary Tafoya Ten Strand Heishi Necklace
Ten strand Santo Domingo heishi necklace by Mary Tafoya

Home & Away Gallery Presents Mary Tafoya

For Native American jewelry collectors seeking pieces that are truly original, Home & Away Gallery does carry Mary Tafoya jewelry for sale. Call (207) 423-8473 and speak to Home & Away Gallery about jewelry for sale by Mary and Lorenzo Tafoya.