Rosemary Lonewolf has been sculpting since she was a child. Pottery is deeply rooted in the culture of the Santa Clara pueblo, famous for its handcrafted earthenware, and Rosemary’s family has carried the tradition through generations.
Rosemary’s father, Joseph Lonewolf, and her grandfather, Camilo Sunflower Tafoya not only pioneered the craft for their gender, but their breakthroughs in pueblo pottery brought them national acclaim. And when it comes to breakthroughs, Rosemary’s career has followed a similar trajectory.
“I had to follow my own path,” she says about her decision to pursue ceramic murals instead of the small-scale pieces for which her native clay is suited.
Winning a design competition in 2000 launched Rosemary into the public art scene and brought a new level of recognition to her craft. Now she uses her work to tell a story about the indigenous people living in the area. On a broader level, Rosemary travels across the nation and around the world to lecture at Harvard, Princeton, and in China, teaching others about her culture.
“We believe that there is a spirit that lives in the clay,” she says. “My grandpa taught us that this knowledge was for us and our children – not for outsiders. But it’s dying out. So my demonstrations are a compromise.”
In 2007, despite her successful career Rosemary found herself unable to obtain financing for a major art installation.
“I needed the materials and the space and no one was willing to give me a loan. If you live on a reservation, it is so difficult. I own my property, but I can’t use it as collateral. The banks won’t lend to us because they can’t repossess the property. There are millions of barriers to getting a loan.”
When Rosemary discovered Accion through an information session advertised in the local paper, her financial hopes had been dashed time and again. Recognizing her commitment and dedication, Accion extended a $20,000 loan to Rosemary to buy the storage and studio space she needed to complete her installation, as well as purchase a kiln for firing large-scale pieces. She was able to pay off the debt she had racked up on her credit card – the only source of financing previously available to her business.
Since 2007, Rosemary has paid off her first loan with Accion and taken a second for additional materials. She now can take on large projects with the knowledge that she has all of her equipment in one place – a huge asset for any artist.
What’s the most rewarding part of her craft? As she places a new piece in the kiln, Rosemary ponders the question before replying that it is undoubtedly the dirty work. “I love actually touching the clay. I see the pieces in my head, and I know what it’s going to look like. Every step I get closer to that – it’s exciting.”