Autumn Borts-Medlock


Growing up in Santa Clara Pueblo, in a family whose connection to clay goes back generations, pottery has always been a part of Autumn Borts-Medlock’s life. She was introduced to the art form as a child, making her first formal attempts at clay work under the guidance of her mother and grandmother. Working exclusively in the ancient traditional Pueblo technique of coil building, the women shaped bowls, vases, and plates from clay they had gathered from the hillsides near the village and processed themselves. Nearby, Borts-Medlock sculpted animal figurines and bowls from the moist clay, always welcoming the gentle hands that occasionally reached down to direct or redirect her efforts. These lessons solidified Borts-Medlock’s connection to clay and gave her the skills she needed to move into coil work.

Within a few years, she was working alongside her mother and grandmother, making pottery from clay that she was now helping to gather and process. Drawing from the spiritual symbolism and nature-oriented design aesthetics of Tewa culture, together the three carved the shapes of kiva steps, bear paws, feathers, rain clouds, water serpents, and lightning bolts into the surface of the vessels, using smooth stones to polish them to a shiny, mirror-like finish. They waited for a calm, wind-free morning to fire them outdoors in flames kindled by thin, fragrant sticks of red cedar, watching the timing down to the second in hopes of keeping their long-labored creations from succumbing to this always-risky phase of the pottery-making process. For Borts-Medlock, learning directly from these two extraordinary artists was truly a gift, and they remain among her strongest influences even now.

At the 2020 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, Borts-Medlock Second Place/Bronze Sculpture and Second Place/Figurative Clay. She won four awards at the 2019 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market: First Place/Bronze Sculpture for Avanyu; First Place/Clay for Conversation Piece; and First Place/Clay and Best of Division for Elk Dance. In 2018 she won Second Place/Bronze at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, and Third Place/Bronze and Best of Class/Pottery at the Cherokee Art Market. Her work was featured in the Crocker Museum’s 2019 exhibition Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries.

Autumn Borts-Medlock is represented by King Galleries, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Photo by Wiz Allred


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