Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez

Albert Whitman. (She Made History). Apr. 2021. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807575994.
K-Gr 3–This picture book celebrates the life of Maria Povika (1887–1980), a renowned Tewa artist who discovered a pottery firing technique that changed history. In late 19th-century San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM, Povika began making pottery at a young age. She gathered clay from the Rio Grande to make pots, but despite her efforts, they cracked after being left in the sun. She sought help from her Aunt Nicolasa, who taught Povika the tradition of san-away and the importance of thanking Mother Earth and preserving Tewa traditions by sharing clay knowledge. Later, Povika married Julian Martinez, who helped raise their family while Povika’s artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1908, Povika was approached by an archaeologist, who asked her to make a pot based on a piece of ancient black pottery. While experimenting with different firing processes, Povika and Martinez accidentally created beautiful, glossy black clay pots. Soon, so many people wanted to buy their pots that Povika and Martinez had to train others in the Pueblo to mold and paint them. The couple was invited to teach their techniques, from San Francisco to New York and back to Tewa Pueblo again. After Martinez passed away, Povika shared her clay knowledge with her children and the Tewa people. Short, simple text conveys the significance of Povika’s discovery. Soft, colorful illustrations provide a sense of warmth and pay tribute to her lasting impact on her community and the world.
VERDICT Through masterful storytelling and graceful illustrations, this impactful title embodies Maria Povika Martinez’s famous words: “The Great Spirit gave me [hands] that work...but not for myself, for all Tewa people.”

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