Indian Market is the time when Tammy Garcia returns to her roots to produce her sought-after pottery, and there’s always a frisson of anticipation among her admirers as we wait to see what new inspiration has taken form in her exquisitely carved vessels. We wonder how she’s going to top what she did the previous year, but somehow she manages to surprise and delight us every time.
This year is no exception. Already known for using the entire surface of her pots as a “canvas” for her designs rather than the standard band, she takes her design genius to a new level with fresh subject matter that she incorporates into the shapes and details of the carvings in innovative ways.
Her octopus-themed pot, for example, uses the creature’s tentacles to form the handles, while blossoming sea urchins float about like a free-flowing bouquet. “I was looking through books about prehistoric life,” she says, “and was struck by the idea of the ancient sea that once covered the entire region, leaving fossils of shells and fish for us to find millions of years later.” She uses coral beads to provide a contrast with the inky-black of the octopus form, another reference to the ocean, as well as turquoise accents for still more contrast.
Another pot features a beautifully realized bee that’s framed by flowerlike forms and grounded by a chrysanthemum. Inspired by vintage brooches that use elaborate but delicate frames to showcase inset stones, she devised her own take on these frames to elevate the image and underscore traditional design elements while giving them a contemporary interpretation. “In Roman mythology the bee is a sacred insect that bears a message of good fortune from the gods,” says Tammy, “and the chrysanthemums symbolize optimism and joy.”
A recent innovation is her use of intricately carved stoppers and lids, a labor-intensive undertaking because of the challenge of shaping them to fit the pots exactly and balance out the weight. One stopper in particular, decorated with a bear, became the inspiration for the pot’s theme and dictated the shape of the vessel’s neck as well. “My grandmother, Serafina Tafoya, taught me that whenever you see bear tracks, you know water is close by,” says Tammy, “so the bear signifies the presence of water in addition to symbolizing strength. The fluted rim is designed to suggest raindrops, another reference to water.”
It’s the use of new imagery and fresh designs that engages Tammy’s imagination and leads her to experiment with shapes and finishes, she says. “I find the process as exciting today as it was 20 years ago.”