Felipita Aguilar Garcia and Asuncion Aguilar Caté, Santo Domingo Pueblo Pottery Matriarchs

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In the early years of the 20th century there lived in Santo Domingo Pueblo two pottery making sisters whose family name was Aguilar.  One of the sisters, Felipita, was married to Santiago Garcia.  The other sister, Asunción, was married to Francisco Caté.  These women were good potters who produced the standard black on white ware of their pueblo.  Felipita Aguilar Garcia and Asuncion Aguilar Caté (ca.1880 - 1925) had been in the habit of offering this pottery for sale at the Santo Domingo railroad station, where, at that time, the Santa Fe trains stopped long enough for visitors to buy from the Pueblo Indians. They are both considered pottery Matriarchs.

In 1910, or very close to that, their sales of the standard ware dropped off somewhat.  Julius Seligman, who was then the trader in Santo Domingo, knew this fact.  Mr. Seligman suggested to the two women that they experiment with other ways of decorating their pots, perhaps using more red than had been done.  They accepted his advice and evolved two types of pottery designs.  In one the decorated area is black with narrow white lines forming severe geometric patterns.  In the other the designs are of the same type but are in red and black with white bounding lines. 

Asunción seems to have preferred the style that uses black and red with white dividing lines, while Felipita apparently specialized in the style that has large black designs, bounded with white lines.  At first, the new styles were not very well done, but the new technique was gradually mastered, so that by 1914 very finely executed pieces were being made.

In 1915, or possibly late 1914, or early 1916, the two potters are said to have stopped working, seemingly because of increasing age and infirmity, and the new movement came to an end.  There is some controversy regarding this as it has been reported that one of the sisters entered a jar in the 1924 Santa Fe Indian Market.  How many pieces of these wares were made is not known, but Mr. Seligman felt that probably not more than a few hundred were produced.

Excerpted from: Santo Domingo Pottery of the "Aguilar Type. Frederick H. Douglas. Clearing House for Southwestern Museums, Denver Art Museum, Newsletter No. 37, June 1941.

TAGS: Santo Domingo PueblopotteryFelipita Aguilar Garcia, Asunción Aguilar Caté