Erik Fender, Than Tsideh “Sunbird”, was born in 1970 into the San Ildefonso Pueblo. He was born into an illustrious potting family; his great-aunt was the legendary Maria Martinez. At age 10, Eric began creating pottery with his mother Martha Appleleaf and grandmother Carmelita Dunlap, watching her as she would hand coil and hand paint her traditional black-on-black pottery. At the age of 17 he won an award in a Congressional Art competition. That award has led to experimentation with different clays and techniques to produce new colors on his pottery. At 22 he apprenticed himself to his mother to learn the traditional styles and designs of San Ildefonso pottery.
His style progressed from the traditional black-on-black pottery to an innovative two-tone, black-on-red, separated by sgraffito low relief carving. He also makes beautiful polychrome pots and presently he specializes in green-on-black pots.
He harvests his clumps of raw clay from the sacred grounds within the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Then, Erik breaks the clumps of clay to a fine powder substance and mixes it with volcanic ash and water. Once that process is complete, he hand coils snake like forms and begins to construct his vessel. When the vessel is built it is set out to dry. Then he sands it down to smooth out the surface, stone polishes it and hand paints his designs with all natural paints which are all boiled from native vegetation grown in the Pueblo.
Over the years he has won numerous awards at the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show and the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Recently, Eric has branched out into jewelry, creating beautiful tufa-cast bracelets.