Russell Sanchez was born into San Ildefonso Pueblo on July 19, 1966. His grandfather, Abel Sanchez (Oqwa Pi) (1899-1971), was an award-winning painter. Tomasena Cata Sanchez, (Russell's grandmother) was Rose Gonzales' sister. Rose is the potter credited with introducing deep carved pottery at San Ildefonso.
Russell was encouraged by his great-aunt Rose to learn to make pottery when he was 12 years old. He was also encouraged by Rose's daughter-in-law, Dora Tse-Pe, who has won awards for her pottery since 1969. Russell learned the basic skills of potting from Rose, then refined those skills while observing Dora's pursuit of perfectionism. He was also encouraged and inspired by Tony Da and Jody Folwell.
Russell is a recognized innovator who has developed his own techniques of making pottery and is often referred to as a "modernist" potter. He is an outdoorsman and often collects clay for pottery making during his hiking and rafting expeditions. He has experimented with many different types of clay and often puts two or more colors of clay into the same vessel. He also found and uses a green clay that looks like jade after polishing. Russell also sometimes adds a micaceous slip or inserts turquoise stones into his pottery.
His designs are painted, carved or incised in sgraffito. He also makes figure lids using shapes like bears and shells for some of his pieces. Since 1973, Russell has regularly won awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market for his innovative pottery. He has also received awards from the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix, Arizona.