Maria Martinez (c. 1887-1980) was a potter from San Ildefonso Pueblo.
As a girl, she learned from her aunt how to make clay pottery just as her ancestors had. But Martinez, with her husband, Julian, developed a new way of decorating Pueblo pots.
To harden a finished pot, the Pueblo potters fired it by placing it in a bed of hot coals.
The Martinezes found that if they placed animal dung on the coals, they could raise a huge cloud of smoke that would blacken a pot’s surface. They also discovered that if before firing they painted designs on a pot using a mixture of clay and water, the painted areas would take on a shiny sheen.
Using this technique, Martinez was able to create black pots subtly decorated with glossy black patterns. Her unique “black-on-black” pottery style made Maria Martinez famous throughout the world.