the Governor's Arts Award Winners

Russell Sanchez

San Ildefonso Pueblo

2017 Recipient, Artist, Pottery

Russell Sanchez of San Ildefonso Pueblo, who has been making pottery since he was 12 years old, has continued a Native American tradition that has been in New Mexico for hundreds of years. "By adhering to his methods and even at times expanding on the designs and shapes of his pieces he is showing the next generation what is possible," said nominator Nancy Youngblood, who received a Governor's Arts Award for pottery in 2004. "He has not only followed the long standing traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo's pottery, but has also brought a new level of excellence to the art form."

Sanchez follows the traditional ways of gathering clay, processing it, and creating it through the traditional coil method. Sanchez fires his pieces using the traditional methods of an open outside fire using cedar wood, dried cow pies and dried horse manure. "His strict dedication to the traditional ways is not only admirable but rare in this day and age, where many have lost touch with this sacred process," Youngblood said. While keeping with tradition, Sanchez has not only revived forms that were done in the 1800s but has also established new contemporary styles that show his originality and talent as an artist.

Youngblood said she once asked Sanchez what he was most proud of: "He told me, 'Giving recognition to the potters of the past and carrying on their work. We are part of a living tradition.'" In addition to his art, Sanchez also has a passion for skiing, rafting and kayaking. His interest in rafting led him to be a guide in the 1990s and he has participated in expeditions worldwide, navigating rivers in the Grand Canyon, Peru and North Africa. As a result of his outdoor pursuits, the themes of nature are often reflected in his pottery.

Sanchez has received numerous awards for his pottery including Best of Division at both the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Indian Market. In 2011, he was awarded the special "Tony Da Award" for Pottery at Santa Fe Indian Market.