Shirley Pino

Tamaya/Santa Ana

Curator Shirley Pino (Tamaya/Santa Ana) is a mother, grandmother, seamstress, fashion designer, and potter. She is deeply rooted in her culture, and demonstrates her love of and devotion to her community by sharing her knowledge of traditions and cultural practices. She truly cares for all people.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Shirley chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Tamaya tah's

Tamaya tah’s (cup)
c. 1750–60
Clay and paint
4½ x 6 ⅛ in. (11.4 x 15.6 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Tamaya srpu'na

Tamaya srpu’na (canteen)
c. 1800
Clay and paint
11½ x 8 in. (29.2 x 20.3 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Tamaya ah'sa

Tamaya ah’sa (storage jar)
c. 1895
Clay, paint, and rawhide
14 x 16 in. (35.6 x 40.6 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research

Tamaya: Yu’weh’sra hao’tsi¹

Every day, I think about our ancestors and our way of life. My favorite memories are those involving my grandma Elvira, my mother, Felicita, and their teachings.

I can still see Grandma Elvira’s hands as she mixed clay while wearing her turquoise bracelets. She would massage my hands and then, calling on our ancestors and her own spirit in prayer, she would say, “Welcome into my granddaughter the knowledge to mix the clay.” It was then that I learned the art of mixing clay.

Tah’s. I can feel traces of the maker from the traces of coils and the texture inside the cup. They show the way a tool, probably a piece of gourd, was used to scrape the inside smooth.

In the springtime, especially when my father was the ditch boss,² my mother would mix clay and create miniature pots, bowls, and spoons. I remember the smell of the clay as it mingled with the lilac fragrance of her perfume.

Srpu’na. The energetic designs and brushstrokes on this canteen pull me in. I feel the prayers and the hands that created this piece, a vessel that was required for everyday use.

Uncles and aunts, and now my brothers and sisters, enter the society/ceremonial houses as we assist with serving food. The most important task, before we did anything else, was to locate the traditional pottery bowls. These bowls always come out first on such occasions, and I look at them with wonder as I study their designs, shapes, and colors. Boiled meat from elk, deer, rabbit, and other small game is served as stews in bowls. I savor the smells and feel grateful that I am providing food to sustain our people. These bowls and jars from the past and present adorn our shelves, and it is the bowls that will be used to take food to important events and to the Turquoise and Pumpkin dwellings.³

Any pottery piece that was made long ago speaks to me, and I feel a strong connection to these vessels. The creation of clay, the mixtures, the coiling and shaping, the tools used, and finally the process of firing the completed piece—all are awe-inspiring. I feel empowered by our ancestors, because they knew how these pieces should be made and completed. Our ancestors were ingenious, and our people remain so today.

Ah’sa. There is a noticeable ring inside this storage jar. I sigh because I would like to hear the true story of what this jar held for our people and how it was used.

Older pieces speak to me more than recently made ones. They were created, designed, and made by the actual hands of our ancestors. These pieces were used daily and were touched by our ancestors long ago. The ability to envision and understand our ancestors’ way of life is so very important to me. Touching any pottery piece, I imagine the tasks required to create it, and I welcome the spirit of the maker into me.

¹The title is Keres for “Tamaya: Our Past, Our Ancestors.”
² This traditional role entailed maintenance of all the waterways in the village.
³ Tamaya (Santa Ana Pueblo) is divided into two moieties, Turquoise and Pumpkin.