Tag Archives: New Mexico

Jeweler’s Studio: Kewa-Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

Under the Palace of the Governors portal sit Native American artisans, displaying their craft. They may sit on small camp stools or cross-legged on a blanket waiting for us. Their hang tags tell their name, their pueblo, and authenticate what they sell. This is a juried system.

The portal at the Palace of the Governors calls to me because it is a place of discovery. I have spoken with gallery owners in Taos and Santa Fe who tell me they found artisans they represent here along this arcade. A keen eye can differentiate quality

This Warren Nieto pendant is for sale. $185.

Who is able to sell each day is based on a lottery. Just as I visit artisan studios throughout Mexico to understand the craftsmanship and to create connection, when I find someone who makes something extraordinary, I want to know more. To see how something is made is to understand the calculus of time and materials, passion, art and history. This is how we put value on something handmade.

Warren and his son in the studio

It’s more than that. To see how people live and work, to meet their families, to understand their culture and origins, hear who they learned from and appreciate the traditions of creativity, gives added meaning to the experience. It becomes more than shopping. It is the next level to an ancient practice of sharing, bartering, collaboration and respect.

The swirls are inlaid slices of shell
A pile turquoise, mother-of-pearl, apple coral, spiny oyster, river shell, jet (fossilized coal)

We got to the Plaza early that day, before 9:30 a.m. Leslie spotted Warren Nieto first, noticed his fine heishi beadwork and mosaic inlay. His thunderbird design earrings were perfectly executed. There were three pair, one for her, one for Kaola and one for me. We struck a bargain for the three and paid cash. I asked if we could visit his studio to see how he constructed his pieces and get a demonstration. We set a day and time.

Warren Nieto’s Thunderbird Earrings, NFS
Fossilized stone with shell impression

Eugene Sanchez was also at the Palace portal that day. I didn’t recognize him but I recognized the fine, tiny pieces of gemstone inlay work I bought from his wife Georgia two years ago. I asked him if we could visit, too.

Eugene and Georgia Sanchez earrings and Thunderbird necklace, NFS
Eugene Sanchez and granddaughter

Eugene’s story is not unique. He’s a military veteran. He worked construction in northern California, had a back injury and returned to his family roots to revive their Native American jewelry making. He learned from his grandmother and father. The work is extraordinary.

Warren’s unfinished work — in the rough

I had traveled the Rio Grande River Valley pueblos in the 1970’s, but had never visited the Kewa (Santo Domingo) village. I was more interested in pottery then. This would be an adventure. We drove south on I-25 for about 40 minutes and then turned off to head west. In the distance, beyond the vast sand-colored desert was a ribbon of green cottonwood where the river flowed fast. Summer rains and winter snow melts ensure an abundance of water.

Raw materials: spiny oyster and caracol shells

Warren Nieto lives with his family in a new modular home behind a vacant trading post, a vestige of the old west and tourism dream that didn’t materialize. He worked carpentry and framing before he returned to the craft he earned from his family. He’s 32 years old.

We were told to respect what your grandparents taught you, he says. Growing up, I learned to make heishi beads and tend the corn fields. We were taught that jewelry making was something to come back to. I do it to create something that others appreciate and value.

Warren speaks Keres to his son, who hovers nearby. This is an ancient language, he explains, and he’s not worried about losing it. The Kewa people adhere to tradition. He says its linguistic roots are Aztec (Nahuatl). I tell him common belief is that the Aztecs came from the north into what is now Mexico in search of a fertile land where the eagle would perch on a cactus, overcome the serpent and lead them to water. Is it likely they originated from this part of New Mexico?

I am organizing a 2020 folk art study tour into the tribal areas of New Mexico with Sheri Brautigam, who lives in Santa Fe. We will visit a curated group of jewelers, weavers and potters, and attend a Native American festival. If you are interested in joining us, please send me an email so I can add you to the announcement list: email norma.schafer@icloud.com

Native American Jewelry Making — Ancient Art of Identity

The tombs of Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec civilization perched atop a mountain in Oaxaca, Mexico, revealed, when excavated, unparalleled Mesoamerican gold metal smithing, stone and beadwork. For many of us who live in Oaxaca or visit there, we become attached to filigree work in traditional designs brought to Mexico via the Moors who taught the Spanish this intricate technique.

I’m offering Oaxaca and New Mexico jewelry for sale from my collection. If you are interested, please indicate by number and send me an email norma.schafer@icloud.com with your mailing address. I will add $10 USD to mail within US and $28 USD to mail to Canada to invoice.

SOLD. #1. Large mosaic pin/pendant, 3″ x 1-3/8″, Mary Tafoya, Santo Domingo Pueblo, $295

Throughout the Americas adornment was and continues to be a symbol of tribal identity and pride. Distinct styles developed which continue today, made by makers who live along the Rio Grande River Valley of New Mexico, and Navajo and Hopi groups who inhabit the mesas and desert of western New Mexico and northern Arizona.

Silversmithing techniques migrated from Mexico to the Southwest, where these techniques were taught to Native Americans. Horsemen need spurs, bridles, belt buckles and bolo ties. Women need earrings, necklaces and rings.

Necklaces and pendants were fashioned from hand-drilled, cut and polished stones, shells, animal teeth, fossilized plant materials, and wood.

#2 Heshi rope and feathers by Ray Coriz, 16″, $295

To visit Santa Fe is to go back into this history for me. It is a personal history, too. One of migration along the Santa Fe Trail, traveling Old Route 66, and our own family’s trek from the Midwest to California in the early 1950’s.

Every day, Native American jewelry makers and artisans sit under the Palace of the Governors portal on the Santa Fe Plaza. Every day, based on lottery, a lucky few can spread their blankets and display their work. This is like attending a juried show. Each vendor is licensed and must adhere to strict quality guidelines to sell here. I’m drawn to this place for many reasons.

#3 Yalalag Cross, Oaxaca, 22″ handmade with milagros, sterling silver, $895 USD

I’m going back to the memory of our stop in Albuquerque after two days of travel on the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Super Chief in September 1953, on our way to resettle in Los Angeles. I was young, my sister a toddler, our mom cautious. There were Indians sitting cross-legged on blankets as we stepped onto the platform. Laid out before them was silver and turquoise jewelry, blankets, ceramics, trinkets. Were they wearing buckskin and feathered headdresses? I can only imagine. It was the time of Wild West romanticism, Cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Hopalong Cassidy.

#4 Oaxaca filigree by Grand Master Jose Jorge Garcia, $185 USD

I was curious. Our mom shooed us into the dining room and then back to the train. It’s likely we passed by Fred Harvey bracelets, real Navajo blankets, tooled leather belts, Hopi pottery, Zuni petit point, squash blossom necklaces: Native American jewelry we dream about today.

SOLD. #5 Zuni vintage petit point necklace, 15″. $145

As mom and daughters traveled west by train, our dad drove the Plymouth station wagon along Route 66, pulling a small tarp-covered trailer through the desert, a water bottle hanging from the front grill. The manual shifter was on the steering column. Only he could drive it. He later became a huge admirer of Maria Martinez, the famed black pottery maker from San Ildefonso Pueblo, attempting her iconic style.

#6 Oaxaca coral and sterling silver milagro necklace, 20″ — $495

I’m taking you back to Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors. Here is an opportunity to meet artisans, talk with and buy directly from them. Many come from miles away. Navajo silversmiths will travel from Gallup, NM. They might do other things, like teach school or repair cars or serve as tribal administrators. Sometimes, a family member like a mother, father or brother, might sell in their stead.

#7 Inlaid Mosaic Pendant by Warren Nieto, shell, turquoise, mother of pearl, silver. $155 USD

If you are adventuresome, like me, you might strike up a conversation and ask to visit a home and workshop. Many live within a two-hour radius. That’s how I got to the Santo Domingo Pueblo to see where Warren Nieto lives and creates.

#8 Flora Maria Mexican Designer, amethyst + moonstone, sterling earrings, $165 USD

I’m considering organizing a September 2020 folk art study tour of northern New Mexico, based in Santa Fe or environs. This could include visits to Native American jewelry makers, weavers and potteries. We will also include a Native American Feast Day. This feels like a good fit with my love of indigenous arts and my desire to directly support native artisans, as we learn about life, culture, craft and continuity. If you are interest in knowing more as I develop this program with Sheri Brautigam, please send me a note to add you to the list of interested people. norma.schafer@icloud.com

Vast Austerity of Landscape: Speaking of (New) Mexico and Georgia O’Keeffe

I’m in New Mexico and hour north of Santa Fe in the village of Abiquiu, where painter Georgia O’Keeffe reconstructed a dilapidated adobe, converting it into a winter home of extraordinary minimalism. She would have been at home in the living simply movement of modernity. One could also say she shaped it.

View from O’Keeffe’s bedroom window

Here in Nuevo Mexico, thinking of Mexico is unavoidable. The vast, expansive, unending landscape of desert, scrub oak, sage and cactus always brings me back to the root of native Americans, of indigenous First Nation peoples, to New Spain and the conquest, to the land that was once an integral part of Mexico. Place names call out original Hispanic settlers, land grants. Tribal communities draw parallels to Mexican pueblos where creativity thrives and hardship is an undercurrent.

Hollyhock seed dispersal, random regeneration against adobe wall

The land stretches out in folds, crevices, upheavals, arroyos, twelve thousand foot mountain ranges. It is dry and hot in July. It is getting drier and hotter. Afternoon thunder clouds build up and in the distant purple hills, I see rods of lightening and the softening horizon of rain. Along the green ribbon Rio Grande River Valley ancient peoples who migrated south from Mesa Verde continue their traditions.

An iconic O’Keeffe image

We are not permitted to photograph the interior of the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiu. We are not permitted to take photos of the interior through the glass picture windows while standing outside. The home is as it was when she left it, each particular and well-chosen item in its particular place. Each item a sculptural statement, most created by icons of modern furniture design.

Weathered and dry, reminding me of parched skin

The walls are pale mushroom or cream or beige or faded salmon. They are thick adobe. Deep and cool. Through the window is a living painting. The walls are barren. Bare. Empty only to the imagination of what might lay beyond. The vast changing of the sky, the season, the chill or warmth of air. One can imagine the isolation and solitude of living there amidst the expansiveness of the hills, mountains, a ribbon of road, eagles soaring on the thermals, a garden to feed and nurture belly and soul.

Hollyhocks, fruit trees, vegetable gardens at Abiquiu
Beware of Dog

The palette at the O’Keeffe house in Abiquiu is neutral. White cotton covers the kitchen sofa. The kitchen faces north, the light preferred by painters, the guide tells us. The windows are huge. Standard Sears metal cabinets disappear recessed into deep adobe walls. The table is simple whitewashed plywood that sits atop sawhorses, worn smooth with use and age. Nature and living space merge.

She painted this doorway and wall … multiple times
Passages connecting patios, studio and home

Throughout the house the naked walls speak — nothing is necessary. A painter’s easel served as coat rack when she turned from painting to making ceramic vessels.

Unmarked in the La Fonda lobby, I recognize this as O’Keeffe
Weathered to a patina

Details complicate things, she said. To become acquainted with an idea, one must revisit the same subject over and over. Her paintings took on the austere minimalist life she lived. Seeing this, hearing this, reminded me of the traveling exhibit Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, I saw in Winston-Salem, NC, at Reynolda House, that included a dress that she designed and sewed into multiple versions using different fabrics and colors.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church, built atop pre-Puebloan Tewa Indian village

Being there also challenges one to revisit lifestyle and think about how we are acculturated to consume, compete and communicate. I am always grateful for these moments of self-reflection to ask the essential question: Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? Being with O’Keeffe in Abiquiu helps in the continuing process of self-reflection.

Adobe ruins, Abiquiu, around the corner from O’Keeffe home
Inside the Spanish colonial church, Abiquiu

Santa Fe, New Mexico Consignment & Thrifty Shopping: The List

Driving from Denver, Colorado, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, with stops back and forth in Taos and Abiquiu–Ghost Ranch (to pay homage to Georgia O’Keeffe), I am constantly reminded that this land was once Mexico.  The landscape reminds me of Oaxaca: expansive with arroyos, crevices, looming 12,000 foot mountains, scrub oak, sign posts telling of land grants established soon after the Spanish Conquest.

My pilgrimage to visit friends along the way embellished my road trip adventure on the back roads of America’s Southwest. In Taos, my friend Winn gave me a list of thrift and consignment shops to visit in Santa Fe. She said sometimes there is Native American jewelry, too. That hooked me!

This is especially interesting since Santa Fe is that eclectic mix of old-timers who have been there for forty years (and collected a few things), and socialites who come for the summer season. They might be oil and gas heiresses from Texas and Oklahoma who seek a milder summer climate. They come for the opera and the markets: International Folk Art Market, Spanish Market, and Indian Market.

They shop on the Plaza at Santa Fe Dry Goods filled with Euro-designer labels, attend galas, frequent cocktail parties, and then shed barely worn attire. Here’s where these clothes end up:

Gaspeite and Sterling Silver Navajo bracelet, thrift shop find

  1. Artifact. 930 Baca St., Santa Fe. (505) 982-5000. I found a vintage Navajo sterling silver cuff inlaid with gaspeite, and a brand-new skirt hot off the rack from the Plaza at a fraction of its original price.
  2. The Beat Goes On. 333 Montezuma Ave., Santa Fe. 505-982-7877. Here, the discovery is a Peter Nygaard jacket and a raspberry colored crinkle top. Score! This shop is around the corner from …
  3. Doubletake. 320 Aztec St. at the corner of Guadalupe St., Santa Fe. (505) 989 – 8886. This shop is in two parts: amazing Native American jewelry, accessories and furniture; and clothing.
  4. Look What the Cat Dragged In. 2570 Camino Entrada. This shop benefits the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. I never made it here! Hopefully you will. Let me know what you think.

If you are destined for Santa Fe this summer to volunteer or attend the International Folk Art Market (or any of the others), you might find this bonus thrifty shopping itinerary worthwhile.  I did!

 

New Mexico Dry. After the Santa Fe Folk Art Market.

By Tuesday after the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market ended, most friends returned home or continued with travels. Market weekend was HOT, over 100 degrees fahrenheit with no rain, unusual for July when afternoon thunderstorms usually cool things off, they say. There’s no air conditioning here, my local friends remind me. Adobe, shade and water are the natural coolants.

Taos Pueblo, New MexicoThe high New Mexico desert is beautiful, austere, the color of salmon, sand, sage and terra-cotta. Only the cloudless blue sky, jagged mountains and cottonwood banking the rivers give relief to the landscape.

Beautiful pottery comes from this region

Beautiful pottery comes from this region

It is big country with expansive mesas and tumbleweed. Still the wild west with scattered oases.

Cemetery, Taos Pueblo, with adobe chapel

Cemetery, Taos Pueblo, with adobe chapel

I drive an hour and a half north across Native American pueblo land — Santa Clara, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso — climbing up through a mountain pass along the Rio Grande River Gorge to Taos to visit friends.

Native American Tiwa people live in the pueblo

Native American Tiwa people live in the pueblo

Beneath the mountain, under a cloudless sky, I see dust dancing in the distance, a funnel cloud likeness of Kokopelli blowing his flute.

Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo with Blue Altar

St. Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo with brilliant blue altar (no photos inside)

Despite the heat, it is easy to love it here, the mix of silver, turquoise, coral, casinos, fry bread, corn, indigenous pride and creativity, ripe nectarines and peaches — prolific local bounty. This is more than an enclave for opera and art aficionados.

Colors of New Mexico

Colors of New Mexico

The Taos Pueblo looks much like it did forty years ago when I first visited and felt drawn by the region’s history and her native peoples.

Taos Pueblo as it was

Taos Pueblo as it was

There are a few more tourist shops, but the pueblo is otherwise untouched except by bus loads of visitors who come in early morning to avoid the sun.

Tributary of the Rio Grande runs through the Taos Pueblo

Tributary of the Rio Grande runs through the Taos Pueblo

It’s not difficult to make the comparison between Mexico and New Mexico both visually and culturally. Spanish is a primary language here, and roots go deep into colonizer oppression and conversion (read about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt).

Three foot adobe walls, wood beams called vegas to hold up cedar ceilings

Three foot adobe walls, wood beams called vegas to hold up cedar ceilings

From history, we know that political boundaries do not define the origins of people (think Maya people of Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala).

Handwoven blanket. The Spanish brought sheep and looms to New Mexico, too

Hand-woven blanket. The Spanish brought sheep and looms to New Mexico, too

Descendants of Mexican landholders subsumed into U.S. territory in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase populate Nuevo Mexico.

Tiwa people of Taos Pueblo are known for drum-making

Tiwa people of Taos Pueblo are known for drum-making

Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Many of my New Mexico friends are equally at home in Oaxaca, and it is easy to see why.

Stockade fence, adobe wall, unresistable texture

Stockade fence, adobe wall, irresistible texture

Just like Oaxaca, I love the colors and textures here, the traditions of the native people, their art and creativity. The synergy between these two places is strong and as I drive through the country, I have this feeling of peace and deep history.

Hand-hewn logs provide sun shelter

Hand-hewn logs provide filtered shelter from the sun

At this moment, I’m in Huntington Beach, California, with my son Jacob. The ocean breezes bring chill to the air, even though days are warm. It’s great to be back in the land of my growing up and connect with family for more than a few days.

Turquoise doors, Taos Pueblo

Turquoise doors, Taos Pueblo