Dora Tse Pe was born into Zia Pueblo in 1939. Candelaria Gachupin, her mother, taught Dora the basics of traditional Zia pottery production but then Dora married Johnny "Tse-Pe" Gonzales of San Ildefonso Pueblo and moved there. Her new mother-in-law, Rose Gonzales, taught Dora and Tse-Pe to make San Ildefonso red and black ware. Rose also taught Dora to polish as the Zia potters almost never polish, preferring to use a colored slip instead.
Rose Gonzales was born in San Juan Pueblo and moved to San Ildefonso after she married. Rose brought the San Juan methods of pottery making with her and claimed to have taught the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso potters to carve their pottery. Dora worked with Rose for more than ten years, then went out on her own. She says she was inspired by Maria Martinez' son Popovi Da and her grandson Tony Da. Rose also had great influence over Dora's creations.
The first prize Dora ever won was a blue ribbon at the 1969 New Mexico State Fair for a plain black pot she had made with Rose. In 1988 and 1991 she won the prestigious Best in Traditional Pottery Award at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Dora and Tse-Pe did a lot of work over the years experimenting with different clays, forms, textures and designs. As much as Dora always insisted she was a traditional potter, she was always pushing the envelope of what could be done using traditional methods in new ways.