(1887-1980) Maria Montoya Martinez is recognized the world over as a matriarch of Native American pottery. As a young girl. she would watch her aunt Nicolassa make pottery and was encouraged to try various techniques and styles. As a teenager, she would spend time at Santa Clara pueblo with her friend, Sara Fina Tafoya, where she was surrounded by potters.
In 1904 she married Julian Martinez, a painter who was one of the first Rio Grande artists. That year, they demonstrated pottery making at the St. Louis Worlds' Fair, where they sold their pots for $1 a piece. About 1912, she learned to make plain black pottery and in about 1919 Julian invented the black-on-black decoration which he taught to the other San Ildefonso potters beginning in 1921. Maria would form the pots and Julian would paint the designs.
Popovi Da (1922-1971)
After Julian died in 1943, Maria's younger son Popovi Da continued decorating Maria's pottery. Popovi Da was responsible for developing the famed gunmetal finish.