María: The Potter of San Ildefonso is the story of María Martínez and her husband, Julián, who revived the ancient Pueblo craft of pottery-making and stimulated interest in Southwestern Pueblo pottery among both white people and Indians.
María Montoya Martínez, or Marie, as she sometimes signs her pottery, is a woman who has become in her own lifetime a legend. She lives in the pueblo of San Ildefonso, near Santa Fé, New Mexico, and although her life has been, as closely as she could make it, the normal life of a woman of her culture, her unusual qualities have set her apart and gained her fame throughout the world.
Through her mastery of pottery-making, María brought economic gain to her family and her village. However, distressing problems accompanied success and fame.
Liquor ultimately wrecked Julían. There was dissension within the pueblo. And there was the succession of admiring white people who invaded her home and interrupted her work. Not least, in María's view, was the departure of her own children from many Pueblo customs.
Inextricably woven into the story of María is the story of the pottery of the Southwestern Pueblos, a native craft that has become a national art interest, including the development of the unique black-on-black ware by Julián, the first of which is reproduced among the illustrations.
Margaret Lefranc’s many accurate drawings of actual pieces of pottery provide an almost complete documentary history of the craft and show some of the finest examples of María’s art. Her skilled pen has also interpreted faithfully the spirit of María, the Pueblo Indians, and the pottery.