Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez (She Made History)

by Anna Harber Freeman (Author)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

This inspiring story of family and creativity illuminates how Maria's belief in sharing her love of clay brought success and joy from her New Mexico Pueblo to people all across the country.

The most renowned Native American Indian potter of her time, Maria Povika Martinez learned pottery as a child under the guiding hands of her ko-ōo, her aunt. She grew up to discover a new firing technique that turned her pots black and shiny, and made them and Maria famous.

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Publishers Weekly

This latest installment in the She Made History series features Tewa potter Maria Povika, who learned "the centuries-old tradition of san-away," or hand-built clay pots made from clay, water, and volcanic ash, from her aunt in 19th-century San Ildefonso, N.Mex. When an archaeologist visits Maria in 1908, requesting a prototype based upon "an ancient sherd of black pottery" uncovered at a nearby dig, Maria, with the assistance of her husband, Julian Martinez, gets to work, eventually creating a new firing technique that makes her a world-renowned ceramicist and "elevated Native American Indian pottery to a fine art." The prose is accessibly authored by Gonzales, the eldest great-grandchild of the Martinezes, and Freeman, whose childhood was informed by her Osage grandmother's collection of art. Aphelandra adds vibrant, subtly textured spreads to this profile of an arts pioneer. Back matter includes more about the subject, the Tewa people, and San Ildefonso Pueblo; authors' notes; and selected sources. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 3--This picture book celebrates the life of Maria Povika (1887-1980), a renowned Tewa artist who discovered a pottery firing technique that changed history. In late 19th-century San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM, Povika began making pottery at a young age. She gathered clay from the Rio Grande to make pots, but despite her efforts, they cracked after being left in the sun. She sought help from her Aunt Nicolasa, who taught Povika the tradition of san-away and the importance of thanking Mother Earth and preserving Tewa traditions by sharing clay knowledge. Later, Povika married Julian Martinez, who helped raise their family while Povika's artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1908, Povika was approached by an archaeologist, who asked her to make a pot based on a piece of ancient black pottery. While experimenting with different firing processes, Povika and Martinez accidentally created beautiful, glossy black clay pots. Soon, so many people wanted to buy their pots that Povika and Martinez had to train others in the Pueblo to mold and paint them. The couple was invited to teach their techniques, from San Francisco to New York and back to Tewa Pueblo again. After Martinez passed away, Povika shared her clay knowledge with her children and the Tewa people. Short, simple text conveys the significance of Povika's discovery. Soft, colorful illustrations provide a sense of warmth and pay tribute to her lasting impact on her community and the world. VERDICT Through masterful storytelling and graceful illustrations, this impactful title embodies Maria Povika Martinez's famous words: "The Great Spirit gave me [hands] that work...but not for myself, for all Tewa people."--Natalie Romano, Denver P.L.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

STARRED REVIEW! "This story of a young girl from San Ildefonso Pueblo...celebrates the strong sense of culture and identity the Tewa people have maintained through the centuries. Aphelandra...paints with the hues of the Rio Grande's turquoise waters, orange pottery fires, pink sandstone sunsets, and the obsidian black clay of Maria's pots; the result is earthy and elemental, containing the spirit of the New Mexican landscape. A deserved celebration."—Kirkus Reviews starred review

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Albert Whitman & Company
Publication date
April 20, 2021
She Made History
BISAC categories
JNF007010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Art
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF018040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
Library of Congress categories
New Mexico
Martainez, Maraia Montoya
Tewa women potters
San Ildefonso Pueblo
Tewa pottery
Women potters

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