- By Tamara Ikenberg
Santa Fe, N.M. – On Saturday, Aug.1, the first Virtual Santa Fe Indian Market opens for business.
Through Aug. 31, Native Art enthusiasts can shop for jewelry, dolls, textiles, pottery, clothing, baskets and much more at the SWAIA website, from nearly 450 Indigenous artists from the United States and Canada.
In a normal year under normal circumstances, thousands of Native art enthusiasts solidly pack Santa Fe Plaza for the famous Market. But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers to pivot to an online-only event.
From Aug. 15 to the end of the market, customers can participate in “Virtual Booth Hopping,” where they can interact online with artists. Until then, attendees can shop the individual artists’ e-commerce sites, which they can link to via the Market’s home page. There will also be new content every day of the month, including clothing contests, panel discussions and programming from Santa Fe museums and galleries.
To whet your virtual art-shopping appetite, Native News Online selected five eye-catching, culture-packed pieces for sale in a variety of media and styles.
Return of the Thunderbird
LeJeune Chavez’s beaded Thunderbird necklace elegantly updates her Pueblo’s storied signature piece. “The whole style of necklace is totally Santo Domingo. It’s part of our culture,” said Chavez. “I have never seen a beaded thunderbird necklace before. I always had that idea of reimagining one with beads and I finally did it during lockdown.” She loved the way the necklace turned out so much that she fashioned a matching cuff. Popular during the Depression, Thunderbird necklaces were a wearable collage of available materials. “Tribal members made necklaces like that using whatever they could find as backing to set the turquoise and the shells on,” Chavez said. “A lot of them were made with battery casings or those real thick records from the 20s.” For her updated version, Chavez set her beads on black leather. Chavez’s version pays tribute to every detail of the original necklaces. “The colors I use are the same colors used in the Depression-era thunderbird necklaces; just turquoise, red and black.” She also threw in some gold-colored beads to represent other found stones or shells that often played a part in the pieces. Just like the Thunderbird necklace makers before her, Chavez used materials she already had around the house, with one exception. “I didn’t have the bone spacer beads. That’s what they used to use. So I had to search online,” she said. “I wanted it to look as close as possible to the originals.”
Naja is the Navajo word for “crescent,” and it’s also the blanket term for the shape and style of silversmith Tonya June Rafael’s striking multicolored stone pendant. ”When you see that curve, it’s a Naja pendant. It’s been around for centuries,” said Rafael (Navajo). ”It was an adornment for horse bridles a long time ago when Spaniards came through and they brought horses to the southwest. It evolved from there and the southwest Natives incorporated it into jewelry.” Rafael, who lives in Pruitt, N.M., said Naja pendants are most commonly found on squash blossom necklaces. She suggests hanging her palm-sized pendant on a turquoise or coral-beaded chain to set off the piece’s radiant assortment of coral, turquoise, lapis and taurite stones. “I love to work with different colors of stones from all over the world,” Rafael said. She hopes her jewelry will last through generations. “I want to make things that can be an heirloom that a mom can pass to her daughter.”
Naja pendant: $1,200
The fruit of her labor
Wabanaki basket weaving, the signature style of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq people of Maine. Her bright berry and pumpkin baskets will also be on sale. For the pineapple, Frey used commercial Rit Dye to get the vibrant reds, greens and yellows. She wove the basket with brown ash wood harvested by her husband Jeremy, and a bit of sweetgrass. Frey naturally knew that particular wood would serve her pineapple-making purposes. “It’s all about knowing the feel of the wood and what it’s good for. It’s kind of a muscle memory thing,” said Frey. “We run our fingers along it and we know exactly what a piece is for. It comes with experience.”Producing the perfect mini pineapple basket is daunting, to put it mildly. “They’re a pain to make. Oh man, they’re a pain,” said Penobscot basket weaver Ganessa Frey, who lives in Indian Township, Maine. “The cover is a totally weird different technique that I do, and then just putting the leaves in and cutting them to the right size and the right thickness… Oh my God.“ What look like real leaves topping the pineapple started as strips of brown ash wood. Judging from the fruit of her labor, all the work was worth it. The pineapple exemplifies Frey’s fresh take on traditional
Mini pineapple basket: $500
Strength and sky
Navajo pre-med student Erin Lewis is the turquoise-streaked subject of Karen Clarkson’s “Strength” portrait. “I decided to emphasize Erin's strength in angular forms and bold colors,” Clarkson said. The oil painting was made for the series “Today’s Native Women – Portraits of Celebration.” “It was created to showcase the resilience and achievements, as well as the hopes and dreams, of today’s contemporary Native women,” Clarkson said. “These women want you to know they will be heard, excel and accomplish their dreams, for they have learned from their elders and are grounded in tradition and love of family.” In Clarkson’s image of Lewis, which references a photo by Navajo photographer Matt Toledo, the subject merges with the sky. “Turquoise is the color of the sky and the evidence of the Creator's affection and acknowledgement,” Clarkson said. “It is an integral part of Navajo life so I made sure it was woven into her appearance. You cannot see where the turquoise jewelry ends and the sky begins.”
Spotify page, which also features more Coast Salish traditional music and images of Ay Lelum apparel. The brand, based in British Columbia, is a second-generation Coast Salish design house, and all members of the Good family (Snuneymuxw First Nation) play a role in fashioning wearable art. Sisters Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good design the clothing, and were mentored by their mother Sandra Moorhouse-Good. Their father William and brother Joel create the artwork adorning the dresses, t-shirts, face masks and more. Joel brought the grizzly bear story to life for the cape. “It is amazing to work in a multigenerational family environment where we learn from our parents and pass it on,” Aunalee said. “In following the traditions of our ancestors as taught by our father, working together unites us and allows us to do this essential work to keep our culture alive.” The wool/polyester cape comes in two sizes, s/m and l/xl, which covers plus sizes.A chic, hooded cape from Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design, captures a scene of a grizzly bear devouring a salmon. “It’s part of our K’wuyucyn (Grizzly Bear) collection, inspired by our family song and our father's story of the grizzly bear,” said Aunalee Boyd-Good. “The story tells of the first grizzly bear ever.” To hear the K’wuyucyn song behind the collection, visit the Ay Lelum
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