Creative Pagosa: Tessie Garcia

Photo courtesy Tessie Garcia Pagosa MAKER Tessie Garcia displays her love of clay in her work and shares it with her students at Pagosa Springs Elementary School and with kids at the annual Hands-On Arts Camp.

Photo courtesy Tessie Garcia
Pagosa MAKER Tessie Garcia displays her love of clay in her work and shares it with her students at Pagosa Springs Elementary School and with kids at the annual Hands-On Arts Camp.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Tessie Garcia.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

This is great! I am being interviewed as an “artist.” I always tell students that, “when I grow up I’m going to be an artist.” I have arrived!

I was born and raised in Pagosa Springs. I am one of eight siblings. It was in third grade that I knew I wanted to be an art teacher. It was because of my teacher, Miss Nash. She was incredible.

By high school, my art teachers, Charla Ellis and Paul Henry, were the greatest influence as to the direction that my life would take. By then, I had no doubt that I was going to be an art teacher and went to Adams State College in Alamosa to receive my B.A. in art.

In 1993, I introduced art to the Pagosa Springs Elementary School. Jennifer Alley wrote a grant and I began the art program, and it has been a vital part of the education program for the school ever since.

I am married to Jim Garcia and I have three children, Paula, Jake and Jade. I am also a grandmother, I enjoy them when they come stay with Nana during the summer. Speaking of summer, Lisa Brown and I run the Hands-on Arts Camp in June every year.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

I love clay! Charla Ellis introduced me to clay. We did a lot of handbuilding and I loved coil pots. I had a dream that I was able to throw on the potter’s wheel and I couldn’t wait to tell Mrs. Ellis. She said to get on that wheel and make something, and that’s just what I did. I have been throwing ever since. Dreams became my reality.

I love making anything involving clay. I enjoy making tortilleras; they are a casserole dish that has a lid. They keep tortillas warm. I enjoy making mugs, they are very personal and they make people happy. I also enjoy working with micaceous clay; cooking out of micaceous pottery is incredible. Horse hair pottery has been my incredible new love. I also make all the clay medals for GECKO.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

I teach art every day. I have a pretty good routine and schedule. It’s the joy of my life. When we have breaks, it’s time to clay around. I never tire of the mud!

Q: What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

My mom and dad were my biggest supporters. My dad would always say, “Do what makes you happy and I will help you all I can.” Off to college I went. I received my B.A. in art. I became a teacher’s aide for the second grade for 3 1/2 years, Louella Sanchez-Gross told me that I was a natural teacher and that I should go back to school and get my cridentials. I did just that and I began the art program. I also felt that I wanted to influence my own culture.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa country?

Pagosa Country has so much to offer, that’s why I am still living in this beautiful area. In the summer, I get to go camping with my family as well as enjoy off road recreation, jeeping and fishing. In the winter, we sled, snowmobile, ski and simply play in the snow. I get to go boating and enjoy the water in the area. I go the hot springs to soak. The restaurants in our area are very good. I love Pagosa, that’s for sure.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

Along with Joanne Irons and Karen Siclair, I help organize the Empty Bowls Project. We start the project on World Food Day on Oct. 16. I enjoy community coming and helping with such a worthwhile program. I get to connect with old friends as well as make new ones. People want to contribute in any way they can with the hunger in our little town, and I make that happen — people who want to play with clay but have never had the chance. I get to be with my mom, Dolores Gurule, she is our No. 1 bowl maker. I also get help with my sisters, Margaret, Anita and Ramona. They help with the program — from making soup, to making bowls and setting up the event.

Q: What is your dream project?

To have a real studio and an outdoor kiln. Not to just be working out of my garage or at the school.

This story was posted on September 26, 2013.