Maria Montoya Martinez, a Tewa Indian of San Ildefonso Pueblo, learned to make pottery as a young girl. When Kenneth M. Chapman, an associate of Edgar L. Hewett, encouraged local potters to recreate the shapes of ancient pots excavated near the pueblo from 1907 to 1909, Maria and her husband, Julian, began a decade of experimentation that led to their first black-on-black pieces in 1918. Maria made the pots by the ancient method of hand coiling clay; Julilan, a skillful self-taught painter, decorated them. Increasingly, they worked in the new burnished blackware, turning away from the traditional, polychrome pottery of San Ildefonso. In his watercolors as well as his pottery decoration, Julian excelled in painting geometrically sylized forms, expecially birds and serpent figures. Credited with revitalizing a moribund pottery tradition, the Martinezes had won international honors by the time Julian died in 1943. Maria demonstrated pottery making at every world's fair until World War II and trained three younger generations of her family.
Charles Eldredge, Julie Schimmel, and William H. Truettner Art in New Mexico, 1900–1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1986)