Shaped By Her Hands – The Story of Native American Potter Maria Martinez

Shaped By Her Hands by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales is a wonderful picture book biography following the life of Maria Martinez, a Native American artist who gained international recognition for her unique black-on-black pottery.

Growing up in San Ildefonso Pueblo, Maria learned the art of pottery by watching her Aunt Nicolosa. Mixing clay with water and volcanic ash, Maria learned how to shape pots, and eventually began firing them. Maria and her Aunt were passionate about keeping the Tewa traditions alive and were always sure to thank Mother Earth for the clay she provided, and prayed before firing their pots.

Maria continued making pots as she grew up. She married Julian Martinez, who helped her experiment in recreating traditional black pottery at the request of archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett. With their trial and error, Julian and Maria created something similar to the traditional pottery, but also completely unique that had never been done before. The pots sold quickly, inspiring Maria to make more. Julian painted the pots, creating stunning black-on-black designs.

Shaped By Her Hands is not just a picture book biography, but a wonderful story of both learning and sharing traditions. I loved the way the illustrations by Aphelandra capture Maria’s remarkable life.

Shaped By Her Hands officially releases later this week (April 1, 2021), but you can preorder a copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

I would like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for providing me with a review copy of Shaped By Her Hands. I am so excited to share Maria Martinez’s inspiring story.

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