Scroll Top

Mary Louise Tafoya

I was born and raised in Santo Domingo. I learned my jewelry making techniques from my father along with influences from my mother. As a young girl, my father would teach me about the different colors of turquoise from deep green to brilliant blue. I learned from him that Turquoise was special to Native Americans because it is one of the oldest materials used in their crafted jewelry. I created my first piece around the age of 10. I created small jaclas, which were taken to Gallup by my father to be sold. I was fortunate to have sold them for $12 (which is a fortune to a little girl).

My mother had a huge influence on my style of jewelry-making. I studied as she cut out parts of Thunderbird (pendants) and set them. I would sit for hours and just watch her work. Every now and then I would ask my mother if I could cut out some pieces too. Once she showed me how, I practiced until I became quite good at it. As I continued watching and learning from my parents, I would create designs in my head and suggest ideas to my father. As I became older, I eventually learned how to operate all the other machines (ie. slicer, grinder, and polisher) and was able to create more pieces of jewelry.

Thanks to my mother and father, I have a talent not many people have. I am proud of what I’ve learned over the years. My inlay technique is very similar to the traditional techniques. Many people comment on the finished pieces and say, “Wow! That looks like a painting!” I draw my ideas from nature and each piece is unique. I am always keeping my eyes open for inspiration from the world around me.

Today, my husband Lorenzo and I enjoy making jewelry in our home studio in Kewa Pueblo, NM. We hope to continue to pass on the things we’ve learned to our children and grandchildren.