Shaped by her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez

English & Tewa

4-8 years


Indigenous Voices

San Ildefonso Pueblo



Historical Figure

Anna Harber Freeman, Barbara Gonzales & Aphelandra


Shaped by Her Hands is a lovely biography aimed at typical picture book audiences about famous Native American potter Maria Martinez. She grew up in the San Ildefonso Pueblo at the turn of the twentieth century with her family, and Tewa words are sprinkled throughout the text. The story follows the life of Maria from her frustration at not knowing how to make pottery, learning from her aunt, and recreating an ancient pottery technique that ended up making her work world-renowned.

I really love how all 3 creators of the book have ties to different Indigenous nations, including Maria’s great-granddaughter herself! This biography is important not only because it introduces young audiences to an incredible artist, but it also showcases an Indigenous historical figure without hardship or strife related to her identity.

Although it does mention Maria attending boarding school, it doesn’t mention if this was a forced attendance due to ongoing colonization efforts. Despite this, Maria was able to flourish using her ancestral ceramic techniques and employed many in her pueblo community to help with production when there was an influx of demand for her work. I really enjoyed learning more about Maria and I can definitely see this being used in a classroom accompanied by photos of Maria and her work!

This book was kindly sent by Albert Whitman and a contender for the #Bookstagang_BestOf2021 however all opinions are my own!

Anna Harber Freeman

I’ve loved to read, write, and draw as long as I can remember! One of my inspirations was my grandmother, Opal Murray Harber. She was a librarian at the Denver Public Library, and a member of the Osage Nation. She collected books of all shapes and sizes, along with Native American Indian art.

Now I spend my days getting my hands messy and inspiring young people to create as a K-12 Art teacher. When I’m not writing or teaching art, I love spending time outside with my husband, two boys, and poodle. I live in Longmont, Colorado.”

Barbara Gonzales

Barbara was born in 1947 into the famed Maria Martinez family. Maria was her great-grandmother and noted potters Santana & Adam Martinez are her grandparents. She lived in Maria’s home from the time she was five to ten years old. Barbara says that the making of pottery was so integral in the daily life of Maria’s family that she learned to pot just by being present and watching. Barbara went with Maria when she sold her pots to tourists under the portal at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. Barbara is known for her small bowls, lidded jars, and spheres. Her work is highly polished and can be found in red, black-on-black & sienna. She is noted for the sgraffito designs etched on her work and inlays of stones, coral, turquoise, and ivory. Barbara’s signature design is the spider web, which is considered a sign of good luck. Barbara participated in the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market for many years, earning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place ribbons. She was chosen as a representative of Maria’s “craft lineage” in the 1997-8 Pottery by American Indian Women, The Legacy of Generations exhibition of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Barbara is an active potter today, and her work can be found in many museums and galleries.


Aphelandra is an illustrator, designer, and book lover based in Chicago.​​​​​

Here are some fun facts from Aphelandra’s website:

“My dad was a landscaper and my mom was a craft artist, so I grew up surrounded by natural beauty, creativity, and people who bolstered my commitment to doodling, even when said doodles were undeniably shabby. The doodles of today are considerably less shabby thanks to them.

I am of Filipino and Oneida (American Indian) descent. My dad was an enrolled tribal member, and even gave me “Oneida” as my middle name.

My day job is in publishing—I’m a senior designer at Albert Whitman & Company, an independent children’s book publisher in Chicago. I love working with artists to help them bring our stories to life.”

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