Dominique Toya was born to Maxine Toya and Clarence Toya in 1971 at Jemez Pueblo. In those days she was known as Damian and she began creating pottery at about the age of five. She credits her mother Maxine for being the inspiration behind her interest in learning the traditional art. Her aunt, Laura Gachupin and grandmother, Marie G. Romero complete the roster of influential family potters in her life.
She gathers her clay and natural pigments from within the lands of Jemez Pueblo. Preparing the clay, she cleans and sifts and wets and mixes and dries, then hand coils, shapes, sands, and polishes before finally firing her pots.
Dominique says she was inspired to create her signature swirl melon pots by well-known Santa Clara pottery Nancy Youngblood. She is aiming for nothing short of perfection, from the shape of her pots to the swirls that pour out of her openings. "The smaller the opening," she said, "the swirlier they get." The lines that circle a Dominique pot are perfectly spaced by taking an ice pick and scratching through the clay one line at a time, eventually covering the pot from top to bottom. "It's all done by eyeball," she said. "It's just a part of me."
Later she will sandpaper the grooves deep into the pot. Those deep groves are another signature, as is the sparkle in the final micaceous slip. She signs her pots as: "Dominique Toya, Jemez", followed by the corn symbol to denote her clan origin.
Her career shifted into high gear with an award in the pottery division at the 2000 Annual Heard Museum Guild Show. Then she was awarded Best of Class for Pottery at the 2009 SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market. Then collaboration between Dominique and Jody Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo won the duo the Best of Show award at the 2010 Eiteljorg Museum of the American Indian in Indianapolis.
Career success, she believes, is rooted in her decision to become "Dominique" and to leave behind an outer self that didn't fit her. Born "Damian", Dominique was already a successful potter before she accepted herself as a woman. She has been undergoing hormone therapy for the past two years as she completes her transformation. "My personal changes, my hormone therapy: everything happened all at once," she says.
Today, Dominique tells us she still gets her inspiration from her mother, her grandmother and from good friends Nancy Youngblood and Jody Naranjo. Her favorite shape to work with is the water jar, preferably carved with deep swirls and slipped with micaceous clay. As a 5th generation Jemez Pueblo potter she says clay is her life and it has allowed her to relax and enjoy this amazing and fulfilling journey through life.