At the turn of the 20th century Zuni Pueblo was producing pottery equal to that of any pueblo. However, by the mid-point of the century, pottery-making had almost disappeared at Zuni. Many of the artists of that era had become jewelers to fulfill the strong demand for the fine style of jewelry produced there.
In the late 1970s, recognizing that the loss of the pottery making tradition at Zuni was unfortunate, a decision was made to attempt to re-introduce pottery to the pueblo by teaching students of the high school to pot. Inasmuch as there were no qualified Zuni pottery teachers available, the school hired Nellie Bica (an
woman married to a Zuni) and Daisy Nampeyo Hooey (a Hopi woman also married to a Zuni.) Today almost all Zuni potters, including Gabriel Paloma, are a result of this far-sighted program.
Interestingly, Gabriel is not only a product of the program, but he has been the pottery teacher at
since 1991. His high school teacher was the late Jenny Laate, also an
woman. Unlike some Zuni potters who have chosen to expand the boundries of what a Zuni pot can look like, Gabriel has chosen to make very traditional Zuni styles much like those of 100 years ago.
Despite the success of the high school program, even today there is not an abundance of Zuni potters. The popularity of jewelry and fetishes have led many young people to pursue these crafts. So Gabriel Paloma remains one of the few fine Zuni potters.