New Mexico and the Folk Art Festival

New Mexico and the Folk Art Festival

My textilian friend, Sheri Brautigam set up a friend’s getaway for 4 old friends last July. First, we were going to the PowWow at Taos Pueblo. But that got cancelled so we stayed at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s house and tooled around Taos, visiting the Earthships site, Uncommon Threads and Steppin’ Out, buying Lior pants and other sartorial delights. We also stopped in to Millicent Rogers Museum, rich with pattern, on weavings and pottery. The patterns go back centuries and feel completely modern and current.

The women are never at a loss for self -entertainment!

Sheri had signed us up for visiting Georgia O’Keefe’s house in Abiquiu. I had been to Ghost Ranch before but never to the house of the Southwestern master painter. It was all we could hope for: spare, neutral and intimate. The light and shadows on adobe walls juxtaposed with deep blue sky was transporting. She lives on in this sheltered environment.

Sheri was part of the build-up for the Folk Art Festival and did a showcase/fashion show at the De Vargas Center, also called Travellers Market. Sheri collects Mexican and Guatemalen clothing and textiles and has written a book about textile markets in Mexico. There were enough wonderful outfits on display, colors and patterns with embroidery and weaving for anyone’s taste.

The big build-up was for the International Folk Art Festival in Santa Fe. This is a global forum for indigenous artists to come represent themselves and sell their wares. Sheri and I had both signed up to be translators, which I thought would be an interesting and fun way to be in the market. The catch was that our shifts started at 7am, thus avoiding extreme heat and getting the shift over, allowing time for shopping. True. But by the time the shift was over the market was at max capacity, making it difficult to move, and the afternoon monsoons were about to begin.

At any rate, I helped a lovely, elegant woman from Mali who was representing her indigo dye cooperative from Mali, stripe after stripe of shibori scarves, dresses and pillows. I am hoping she did well. It’s a long way to come, and there were many other people selling beautiful goods. I looked for the Guatemalen woman who weaves the practically sheer gauze huipils. I found the one for me and stood in line to pay while the rain gushed over my feet, luckily I was under a canopy.

Racing to take a friend to the airport in Albuquerque we passed through the massive storm clouds that had dumped on me in Santa Fe. We crawled to a standstill, the rain obliterating our vision of the highway. That was a serious New Mexico moment.

Japan with the Chigyo Sisters, Part 2

Japan with the Chigyo Sisters, Part 2

…Many trains later we returned to Kyoto, excited about the Temple Market!

The market takes place on the outskirts of an old temple once a month. Racks and racks of old cotton and silk kimonos and deconstructed kimonos were to be had; the cash stash I was saving evaporated in less than an hour. It was overwhelming! I was drawn to rolls of striped cotton. There were some lovely kasuri pieces, but I was mostly attracted to the beautifully woven indigo stripes. I had to be aware of mold and mildew. These are treasures that have lingered in basements in god knows what conditions. I passed by the racks of smelly pieces and carefully selected pieces that were fresh. The temple market was one of the reasons I wanted to come to Japan: the abundance of beautiful old textiles, some still with the patina of the bodies who wore them before.

After the thrill and satisfaction of shopping and hunting for fabrics, Marico and Toshie had arranged for lunch at the largest old Buddhist temple in Kyoto. There we ate a vegetarian meal in 8 parts. Each course came in a lacquered dish and at the end of the meal the dishes were stacked one in the other to from a beautiful nesting arrangement of cinnabar bowls, so thoughtful and pleasing. Plus, of course, the food was divine!

The next day was a free day. I was on the hunt for the perfect rain umbrella. There is a shop for everything in Japan. The large department store Takashimaya has it all of course but there are artisanal shops for everything else. To get to the area where the umbrella shop was we passed through Gion. Gion is the storied neighborhood where Geishas lived and entertained their clients. It is one of the remaining older areas where the buildings retain their luster and older style architecture. You can rent colorful kimono for the day and walk in elevated sandals with the split-toed socks. We saw quite a few younger women playing Geisha for the day.

The next day we took a train to a large Shinto temple in the hills outside of town. This was something I really wanted to see. The vermillion arches wend their way in a loop up the hills and back around, you are in an altered state of orange. I think it might be the largest shrine of its sort. 

The last shorter trip we took was to Takayama, a small town that is in pristine condition, many older Samurai houses, beautiful canals with large koi in floating residence. Marico took us to two wonderful thread stores where I bought a lifetime supply of Sashiko thread, some hand dyed.

The following day we drove to a small gathering of houses to meet Kazue, a papermaker, who is a Living National Treasure. She was having a photo shoot in her garden when we arrived. Her studio is very humble and I had no idea what to expect and surprised to meet her, she was like an apple doll, bent over but with such a life force and twinkle in her eye. She guided us in the art of paper making, stirring her brew of paste and pulp. I brought home a paper spider duster with a wooden handle. I love having a useful item that this almost centenarian has made.

The rest of the trip we stayed in a village called Furukawa at a ryokan named after radishes. There we perfected the art of managing an13 to 18 course meal, called Kaiseki, without eating absolutely everything in your dish. It’s a skill, and a necessary one if you want to survive with your stomach intact! I cannot say enough for the food in Japan; so fresh and inventive, so well seasoned.

The last day before leaving in the afternoon, I rambled around Kyoto with Marico. We ate one last meal at an artisanal Soba restaurant, a walk through the food/shoe market, and a slip into a secret corridor to find the needle shop, the charming traditional garden on the way to a jewel box store selling: sashiko needles and snips. There are surprises and beauty wherever you go in Japan, and I had the best hosts!

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