Tony Sangre

Tony Sangre Interview Blog

Tony Sangre

• Acclaimed potter and artist
• Isleta Pueblo
• Inspired by Isleta Pueblo and Traditional Crochet Design
• SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market

“From a mass of nothing you make a vessel.” – Tony Sangre

Authentic Native American artwork is handcrafted and, in many cases, handmade. The Native art community is a vibrant one with hundreds of highly-skilled artists who maintain the highest levels of craftsmanship and technical excellence. They honor their ancestors, cultural heritage and the artistic legacies passed down to them, while also pushing the boundaries of what Native American artwork is.

Get to know acclaimed pottery artist Tony Sangre (Isleta Pueblo) as he shares his artistic inspiration and the moments that have defined his award-winning career.

Learn more about Native American Artwork and Indian Pueblo Store’s Featured Artists Sign up for our newsletter.

Please tell us about yourself.

Sangre: My father is from Isleta Pueblo. My mother is Chicana from the South Valley in Albuquerque. I favor my mom's side - green eyes and dimples - which makes me unique around here. We moved to Isleta Pueblo in 1968 when I was six years old and I've been here ever since. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love it here.

How or when did you decide to become an artist?

Sangre: I went to elementary school at Isleta Pueblo then moved on to Polk Middle School and Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque. That's when I found my passion — my art — in 1978 at Rio Grande High School in Mrs. Johnson's art class. Mrs. Johnson was cool, all hippie-style, so we got along and it was in her class where I made my first bowl. When I graduated from high school, I stopped my pottery for a while, went into the army and spent four years there. I didn’t make any pottery for almost 20 years – I made jewelry with my cousin Andy Kirk and then he passed away. I fell back into my pottery and ever since I've been excelling as an artist. I've entered several different art shows and I've won the New Mexico State Fair blue ribbon for pottery every year since 2010.

Tony Sangre's first bowl from 1978
Photo of Tony’s first bowl

I am known for my pottery, but I like drawing portraits too - I really like drawing people. I enjoy drawing portraits because everybody seems to draw birds or something from nature. I like the challenge of getting to know the person. I like drawing children as well — they are pure, no apprehension — just joy.

Portrait of Tony Sangre's Aunt Veronica
Portrait of Tony’s Aunt Veronica 

Drawing of Tony Sangre as a young boy
Drawing of Tony Sangre as a young boy

What draws you to the ceramic medium?

Sangre: I love pottery because there's no end to it. It's a circle. It's constant and it flows. With a piece of paper, you have to stop. In pottery, when you're making a bowl you keep going until it flows into itself. In my pottery, I have a certain technique - I don't paint or use a brush on my bowls. My tools are a dowel and a pencil. I use them to carve and my designs flow and come to me naturally.

Is clay your favorite medium?

Sangre: Yes, for sure. The pottery process is magic. The clay is cold to start with, but as you work with it, it gets warm. From a mass of nothing you make a vessel.

Tony Sangre's Falling Starz bowl
Falling Starz


Where does your inspiration come from?

Sangre: A lot of my inspiration comes from my mother. She crocheted constantly - the best crochet in the world. My designs stem from her crocheting influence so I have to keep my crisp lines. It's hard to find the perfect clay to maintain clean lines so that's why my bowls are different colors and textures.

I think where I live also inspires my work. The Pueblo, New Mexico, the beauty, our culture. There's so much culture here on the reservation and off. I like all kinds of work and art. I like going downtown, checking out the graffiti, the people, the little shops. There’s always somebody with a new idea or a new spin on something. There's always something to be inspired by. There's always something to do or create. If I get tired of making my pottery, I can always do my drawings, or I'll go outside, get some fresh air, and work on metal with my plasma cutter.

Tony Sangre's Diamonds are Forever bowl
Diamonds are Forever

What are you currently working on?

Sangre: Here’s the current bowl I'm working on – it hasn’t been fired yet. It’s an odd little bowl. I haven’t named it yet.

Tony Sangre unnamed piece
Unnamed Piece

Is there a moment or period that defines your art career?

Sangre: When I was 18 years old, I won an award for a youth art exhibit co-hosted by Albuquerque Public Schools and the Albuquerque Museum. I entered my bowl and it won first place. The piece had a carving of a deer scene with an accompanying feather and a quilt design. My love for my pottery has only grown since then.

Tony Sangre award show brochure and bowl
Award show brochure and bowl


Learn more about Native American Artwork and Indian Pueblo Store’s Featured Artists Sign up for our newsletter.


  • 43%Apache from Colorado. I moved to California when I was 5. I see all natives as brothers. I love your work!

    Lorrilee Lara
  • The diamonds forever is eye catching. In Navajo you would say, “Nizhoni”.

    Lillie Reed
  • I am exceptionally pleased to see active American arts evolve through time. Your work is truly inspirational.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Your connection to authentic Pueblo art and artists...

Learn More