Santa Clara Pueblo
I found the paintings in the SAR collection a valuable source for textile patterns, because early Pueblo painters showed costumes in the dances in wonderful detail.
Shawn Tafoya was always excited when his family pulled out their large collection of embroidered Indian clothes to be worn and danced in. “I always wondered how did they do that, or who makes those,” he recalled. He took an interest in embroidery at the age of five, and by eleven he was experimenting with yarns, fabrics, and stitching. “I didn’t get everything right, but it came out okay,” he laughed. “I wanted to bring back something that was being lost. When I looked at the kiva paintings and the ruins and the books, I was real interested in bringing it back into that fullness, with new colors and new designs.”
Shawn is a member of the renowned Tafoya family of potters and makes traditional Tewa pottery in addition to his embroidery work. He is a former student of the Institute of American Indian Arts and a former Dubin Native American Artist Fellow at SAR. He has dyed his own yarns, and was the only convocation participant who had made an embroidered breechcloth. A distinguishing characteristic of Shawn’s embroidery is a “lock stitch” that keeps the threads secured.
Male embroiderers were more common in previous generations of Pueblo cultures, especially the Hopi, than they are now. “I come from a community where there are no male embroiderers,” Shawn said, “but I knew they existed from reading books, so I wasn’t afraid to try it.”
School of American Research