Jeff Roller is the sixth generation of potters in the Tafoya family from Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico’s Rio Grande River Valley. He first remembers digging clay as a young boy. He went with his grandmother and mother to the clay pits in the foothills near Santa Clara and Puye Cliffs, the dwellings of his ancestors from about 900 to 1580 A.D. Jeff remembers those early trips as powerful, but also almost scary. Even as a child, he knew that spirituality and the making of pots were inseparable. “My grandmother made the prayers at that time. I knew that I had to have the right respect. If not, I couldn’t take the clay,” Jeff says now.
That respect for Mother Clay has only grown stronger over the years. When he was a little boy, Jeff made animal figurines and then his first pots. At first, it was a craft, a fun thing to do and a means of making money in the summertime for things a boy wants. But increasingly he understood the spiritual nature of the clay. "Sometimes, you want to make a certain shape and it just will not form. It's a way of life, this traditional way of making pottery".
The honoring of Creation and his place in it is where Jeff’s art emerges. Since he is also a hunter, the earth and its creatures frequently are depicted in his art. The mountain peaks, the animals, the creatures of the water, even the stars are among many traditional designs Jeff utilizes in his pottery.
Jeff sees himself as less significant than the water and mountain and animal spirits that he depicts in his work. "I do it in their Honor".