The Pueblo functioned largely on an agriculture-based economy until the early twentieth century. It was at this time that the husband and wife Maria and Julian Martinez rediscovered the traditional art of black-on-black pottery. The Pueblo became famous for this and from this time on became focused on the tourism industry.
In 1908, Edgar Lee Hewett, professor of archaeology and the director of the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, uncovered examples of ancient black-on-black pottery. Hewett wanted to find a potter who could recreate this style and create pieces for museums as well as pass down and preserve this ancient art form. He turned to Maria Martinez, who was known in the area as a skilled potter.
It was difficult for Maria to re-create this long-forgotten art form at first. She initially had trouble recreating the deep black color, as most of the clay in the surrounding areas was not naturally that color. From watching the Tafoya family of Santa Clara Pueblo, Maria learned how to create this color through a process called vacuum induction. In this process, the fire used to fire outdoor pottery is smothered. This traps the smoke and causes the clay to turn black.
Although most traditional festivals and rituals are completely closed, there are a few that may be attended by the general public. One such holiday is the San Ildefonso Feast Day, which happens every year on January 23.