Mother and son duo Marlene Melchor and Dominic Melchor are potters from Santo Domingo Pueblo. Continuing the tradition of their community’s pottery-making, Marlene is fourth-generation potter and Dominic is a fifth-generation potter.
Their pottery is an expression of their family’s heritage and the culture of Santo Domingo Pueblo. Santana Melchor was a renowed potter in the Pueblo, and in recognition of her remarkable pots and bowls, in the 1970s, she represented Santo Domingo Pueblo during a visit to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Throughout her life and career, she encouraged her daughters and son to continue the tradition of pottery-making at Santo Domingo—she passed on her special polishing stones, materials, and methods to make pottery to her daughters, Crucita and Dolorita, and her son, Ray Melchor.
Santana’s children worked together for many years to continue Melchor pottery—it continues today through Dolorita’s daughter, Marlene, and her son, Dominic. Melchor ceramics are formed using the coil method. Each piece of pottery consists of clay, a white cream slip, red slip, and black paint, created by boiling plants that is applied with a yucca brush. The natural materials are gathered at a site located within the hills of Santo Domingo Pueblo. Each piece of pottery takes about three months to complete, beginning from the initial process of creating the pottery, sanding, polishing, painting, and finally firing the pieces outdoors, utilizing traditional firing methods. The designs on the pieces have also been passed down through the generations.
Marlene creates a wide variety of pieces, from large bowls to small jars. Dominic also creates small jars and has created newer pieces, known as Santo Domingo Pueblo turtles. He makes large and small turtles and utilizes traditional Santo Domingo designs. Marlene and Dominic proudly continue the Melchor pottery tradition and more importantly, Santana’s encouragement to work together as a family.