National Museum of Women in the Arts
Nancy Youngblood
October 11 1955 - present
Photograph of Nancy Youngblood, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Fort Lewis
Phonetic Spelling:
NAN-see YUHNG-bluhd
Minority status:
Native American
Native American Tribe:
Santa Clara
Work Type/Media:
Decorative and utilitarian works
Artistic Role(s):
Ceramicist, Potter
Traditional Art
Artist's Biography:
Best known for her striking “melon” bowls featuring deeply carved vertical or swirling ribs, Nancy Youngblood is a fourth generation of Tafoya potters. Her great-grandmother Sara Fina Tafoya, her grandmother Margaret Tafoya and her mother Mela Youngblood were all distinguished pueblo potters.

Youngblood spent her early years on army bases in the United States and Europe with her military father Walton Youngblood. She and her mother Mela returned to Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico when Walton was sent to Vietnam in 1968. Youngblood was surrounded by her prestigious family's heritage and that of her grandmother, Margaret Tafoya the matriarch of pueblo pottery.

Youngblood learned the traditional ways of gathering, refining, and shaping clay, as well as carving and polishing pots by watching her grandmother, her mother as well as her aunt Shirley Tafoya, at work. She was still a teenager when she won a second prize at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial in 1972. Shortly after, she started showing and selling her potteries at Santa Fe's Indian Market.

Youngblood’s jars, vases, and melon bowls include both innovative and traditional Tafoya designs including bear paw, avanyu (horned serpent of pueblo lore), lightening or feathers. She says she particularly admires the works of Teresita Naranjo, Grace Medicine Flower, and Margaret Tafoya.

Youngblood feels very strongly about the importance of preserving traditional firing methods. Prayer is an integral part of the process and she believes that the fire will determine if a piece is meant to be. Speaking of her commitment to tradition she adds, “I think it is really because of my grandmother; she was such strength for all of us. I use cornmeal before I get my clay and my sand to pray before each firing. If I bought the clay and if I used a kiln, that would hold no drama for me. The way I do it, the pot is a part of me and preserves the Tafoya family traditional method.”

Other Occupation(s):
Lecturer, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
Santa Fe
Santa Clara Pueblo
Place(s) of Activity:
Santa Fe
Santa Clara Pueblo
Where Trained/Schools:
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA (1975-1976) Private lessons (1968-1974)
Related Visual Artists:
great-granddaughter of Sara Fina Tafoya great-granddaughter of Jose Geronimo Tafoya great-great-niece of Santana Tafoya great-niece of Tomasita Tafoya great-niece of and influenced by Camilio Tafoya great-niece of Christina Naranjo granddaughter of and influenced by Margaret Tafoya granddaughter of Alcario Tafoya daughter of Mela Youngblood sister of Nathan Youngblood niece of Virginia Ebelacker niece of Lee Tafoya niece of Betty Tafoya niece of Jennie Trammel niece of Toni Roller niece of Lu Ann Tafoya niece of and influenced by Shirley Tafoya cousin of and influenced by Teresita Naranjo cousin of and influenced by Joseph Lonewolf cousin of and influenced by Grace Medicine Flower cousin of Rosemary Lonewolf cousin of Greg Lonewolf cousin of Susan Romero cousin of Linda Tafoya Oyenque cousin of Cliff Roller cousin of Jeff Roller cousin of Teresita Naranjo cousin of Stella Tafoya Chavarria cousin of Denise Chavarria cousin of Mary Cain cousin of Tina Diaz cousin of Linda Cain cousin of Tammy Garcia cousin of Mida Tafoya
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Best in Show, Santa Fe Indian Market, Santa Fe, NM, USA (1989) Distinguished Artist Award, Santa Fe Rotary Foundation, Santa Fe, NM, USA (1989) Alvin and Delores Curran Award, Santa Fe Indian Market, Santa Fe, NM, USA (1988)
Earliest exhibition:
Gallery 10, Scottsdale, AZ, USA (1976)
NMWA exhibition(s):
The Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American Indian Women
American Indian Pottery from the Collection
Artist retrospective(s):
Melon Bowl, 1997
Melon Bowl