Jody Naranjo Folwell-Turipa

Santa Clara Pueblo/Tewa


Friends and fellow artists call her “creative” and “fearless,” and when Native American artist Jody Naranjo Folwell-Turipa (Santa Clara Pueblo/Tewa) applies those traits to her artwork, the results are both provocative and stunning.

Folwell-Turipa began sculpting traditional blackware and redware pottery as a child, a skill that was passed from generation to generation in her family. Today she creates clay pottery, along with traditional and contemporary ceramics, that she said often touch politics and social issues.

“I advocate for females and the injustices of almost anyone,” she said. “It’s whatever I consider to be really important at the moment—a child being abused, racial slurs… it doesn’t matter. There comes a point in life when you just have to stand up for your right, the rights of your children, and the generations of the unborn.”

Folwell-Turipa was the first female potter ever to win Best of Show at the Santa Fe Indian Market, and her expressive work has set a new precedent for Pueblo pottery, said colleague and friend Bruce Bernstein. “Jody’s legacy is honest, authentic and genuine—it is what she lives and molds in her pottery every day,” he said.

Here, Folwell-Turipa talks about the importance of family, what inspires her, and how she finds a balance in the old and the new.

1. The tradition of pottery-making has been passed down to you through multiple generations. How does that inform your work?
You’re looking at generations—not just one or two—but an endless amount of generations that have made pottery. Pottery shards that you may find today may have come from the 1200s or 1300s, perhaps even earlier. When you come from a culture that is so rich, it is almost a part of who you are and you cannot break away from that. That’s life.

2. You have talked about finding a balance between traditional and contemporary art. How have you found that balance and why is it important to you?
You would think contemporary work and style would keep my interest. But I find as I go through some of the archeological pieces that different museums have, that it is the most exciting thing in the world to see pieces made in the 1200s or 1700s. And you can you imagine how someone was able to see how this dirt in the ground could be made into a pot. This is so magical, to me. It is so incredible that these people were able to find this means of being able to do it for religious purposes—for purposeful reasons or just to be creative.

3. You serve as an Indian Market judge. What is your motivation to continue judging and what kind of art do you see that inspires you?
At Indian Market, there is such a varied amount of art there and so much to see. Whatever anybody does, I feel that there is a great deal of pride in whatever they do. I may not like it or the next person may not like it, but it’s so much a representation of themselves—of where they come from. It doesn’t matter how you look at any piece of art; it has to represent some sort of history for that person. Either culturally or from the present, something has had to impact them to be able to do that.

4. When did you decide to become an artist and what has inspired you since?
I come from a pottery culture. My great grandmother helped raise all of my mother’s 10 children. She made pottery and she made pots to be used, not to be sold. We helped with the wood, with picking up horse or cow material or whatever materials she needed, to fire the pots. The respect for the clay itself is immense because that is what feeds a lot of people here in this village. In a strange way, it gives the pot family unity and of course, cultural unity.

There isn’t just one moment that has inspired me. It is everything always. Everything I see and do is exciting. When people talk to me, or when I see things that are so incredible, my mind starts working and I start thinking, “What can I do?”

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