There has long been a fascination with boxes, that is to say, square or rectangular clay vessels with flat clay lids. At the Pueblos of New Mexico, there is a historic precedent for these square-shaped pieces that were typically used for holding ceremonial cornmeal for Pueblo dances. These boxes, however, typically did not have lids but more likely had carved or raised ends.
In the 1920s, there was a revival of boxes at San Ildefonso at the same time as the “new” black-on-black style of pottery. The boxes had mostly flat sides but later some were cylindrical. They were painted on each side, and they had a lid with a handle. The style of the handle, and its direction, were often indicative of the potter. While some boxes may still have been made for cornmeal, most were made to hold personal sundries or curious for the newly arriving tourist trade.
Boxes are difficult to make and crack in drying and firing, but San Ildefonso and Santa Clara potters in the 1920s and thereafter were adept at making these shapes. Due to the utilitarian nature of Pueblo boxes, they have not fared well over the past one hundred years. They are often cracked or chipped, and the lids are often missing or damaged. They are now one of the most sought-after pottery forms.