News Column

Folk market offers thousands a chance to people-watch, meet artists and shop

July 13, 2014

By Phaedra Haywood, The Santa Fe New Mexican

July 13--Hordes of people descended on Museum Hill on Saturday to attend the International Folk Art Market, disembarking from shuttle buses in a constant stream that began around 7:30 a.m.

For the first two cool hours, about 1,000 people who paid extra for early bird tickets were allowed to peruse the market with plenty of elbow room and access to some 150 folk artists from around the world who displayed their wares.

After that, the crowds came in earnest as about 9,000 more people -- ticket sales were capped at 10,000 and sold out for Saturday -- flowed through the gates to marvel at textiles, ceramics, metal work, paintings, papier-mache, embroidery, bead work, woodwork and more.

The event was a people-watcher's paradise, with both artists and attendees decked out in their finest wearable folk art. Women carrying parasols embroidered with mirrors, wearing bespangled broomstick skirts, draped with strands of beads and semi-precious stones and carrying satchels made of mud cloth paused to take each others photos under a festive walkway festooned with faux marigold garlands.

As the crowds became thicker and the day became hotter, the sights and sounds of the market combined to create an atmosphere that was evocative of a bustling souk from a far off land.

Many of the artists represented at the market come from countries where people survive on about $3 per day -- according to literature provided by the market -- but this was no third-world market.

Attendees were pampered with free paper cones of cold water, stands full of umbrellas to keep the sun (and later the rain) off, and about a dozen food booths selling everything from gourmet doughnuts to goat stew. At midday, volunteers passed out sack lunches to artists. They wore placards around their necks with pictures of the sandwich choices -- roast beef, chicken/turkey, cheese, hummus -- to help bridge the language barrier.

"Hello, we can't do anything about the crowds, but we're glad you're here," chirped one of dozens of volunteers, some of whom seemed to be charged solely with greeting people.

In the stalls, artists from around the world posed for pictures and demonstrated their crafts. For some it was their first market, others, who have been coming to the market for years, reconnected with friends and customers.

In stall No. 18, Amalia Gue of Guatamela displayed a picture of her son next to her handwoven gauze cloth, created on backstrap looms that date back to pre-Columbian times. The boy -- Fe' Francis -- was born in Santa Fe during last year's market. His mother named him after the city, but he didn't get to come this year.

"I didn't let her bring him, otherwise he would have been miserable and she wouldn't have been able to work," said Olga Reiche, who works Gue's coooperative.

Reiche said the market has revived the gauze-weaving art which was dying out in Gue's village because locals there couldn't afford the delicate hand-embroidered garments and began buying clothing made from machine-made lace instead.

Gue said it takes two-to-three months to complete one of the blouses, which she was selling at the market for $200 each.

A few booths down, Edmond Randrianarisoa of Madagascar -- a fourth generation artisan -- strummed on a Valiha, a traditional instrument made of carved bamboo and gourd, which also sells for $200 but can be made in one day.

Elsewhere, marketers tried on gigantic animal-themed papier-mache masks made in Haiti, and admired themselves draped in garments made from all manners of hand-dyed, woven, embroidered and felted fibers.

Steve Gerardo -- who lives in Santa Fe when he's not doing conflict resolution work in Africa or Asia -- said he see's the market as a great opportunity for the artists to come to the United States and make contacts, "and for Americans to see people from outside the country."

Janice and George Simms from Alexandria, La., said they were attending the market for the first time after having seen a feature about it on PBS. The couple -- who were cerebrating their 45th wedding anniversary -- said they had just retired a week before, closing the restaurant they'd run for about two decades.

George Simms, 67, was still wearing his uniform, which had his name embroidered over his heart. Janice Simms, 65, purchased a basket from Uganda and a pair of earrings made in Laos.

The couple said they had wanted to try Santa Fe's best burrito, after seeing a story about it on the Food Chanel, but were unable to remember the name of the place featured on the show.

"He said, 'Ill recognize the building,' " Janice Simms said. "Then we came and all the building look the same."

Cathy Barnes, a weaver from Eugene, Ore., called the market a "wonderful place to see international textile artists without having to go to every continent."

Her purchases for the day included a yard of handwoven velvet from Uzbekistan, an indigo table runner from Burkina Faso, and a handwoven shawl from Peru.

"I won't wear it," she said. "I'll hang it on the wall. It was $330, but I know the amount of labor that went into it. It would take me a year to make at my pace."

Market spokesperson Clare Hertel said market artists sold $631,624 worth of goods between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. during Friday's opening party, where about 1,700 people paid $175 each to attend, up from about $610,000 raised at the event last year.

Hertel said she didn't have any numbers for Saturday yet, but said about $3 million worth of goods were sold over the weekend at last year's market, and she was optimistic that his year could be even more lucrative.

Hertel said 90 percent of sale proceeds go directly to artists, while 10 percent is used to defray costs associated with the market, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

The market continues Sunday with admission reduced to $10.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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