TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Pilgrimage to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

If I were to go anywhere in the world as a pilgrimage, my choice would be the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. I can't think of another place that would be a Mecca of all my interests in culture, people and the wonderful things they make. Sure, there are many other folk art festivals that would be interesting, but this has to top them all! Every year I hope I can go and so far I haven't been able to afford the trip. You see, it's not only going there and experiencing the environment that would thrill me, but I also would want to buy, buy, buy!!!! Someday it will happen!

Meanwhile, you go. Go be my eyes and ears and report back about how much fun it was! Tell us all about the wonderful people you met and what treasures you bought. The Market will be loaded with all of the ingredients to make anyone clap with joy, dance with delight and participate to their heart's content. There will 140 artists present representing 41 countries! You can travel the world just by walking around! Workshops, ethnic foods, live music and cultural presentations combine to make this a world event in one of the most interesting cities of the world.

Here is a video from last year's market:

My biggest joy would be to interact with the artists and see them at work. The International Folk Art Market's website has a full listing of those who are scheduled to come with a bio of their work. I picked a sampling just to give you an idea of the wonderful diversity of both regions represented and the work they produce, although I have to admit that even though I love all craft forms, I do tend to gravitate towards the textiles. The photos and text belong to the Santa Fe International Folk Art's site and I am quoting a partial bio just to entice you over to their site. Click on the Artist's name to see their full page.

Artisan Committee of Centro Poblano de Chijnaya
Chijnaya Foundation
The Andean village of Chijnaya was born after a flood in 1963 devastated villages near Lake Titicaca. As part of the resettlement project, and through the influence of Peace Corps volunteers, the concept of having the children embroider scenes of daily life took hold. What emerged were “bordados” employing hand-dyed alpaca yarn embroideries soon captured world attention and on a ground of “bayeta” or hand-woven simple weave woolen cloth.

The Palestinian Territories
Sulafa Embroidery Shop/project of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency runs a self-supporting embroidery program which employs over 500 refugee women in the Gaza Strip to produce articles to sell at the Sulafa Embroidery Shop, helping preserve valuable traditions and increasing family incomes.

Silver and Gemstone Jewelry

Moussa Albaka is from Niger, Africa, and as a metal-smith he designs gorgeous jewelry using sterling silver, Tuareg silver and semi-precious stones. His techniques include engraving intricate geometric designs, using decorative inlay, and a lost wax process.

Georgian Textile Group
Embroidered, Woven and Felted
Textiles and Objects
Nino Kipshidze, founder and president of The Georgian Textile Group (GTG), has been involved in crafts since her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. GTG is an association of artists, designers, researchers, art historians, and ethnographers working to revive and improve the quality of Georgian folk textile art and craft and to support artisans works and by creating an international market for their work.

Tesoros Trading Company
Woodblock Prints and Chapbooks

José Borges, one of Latin America’s most celebrated folk artists, wields his knife and piece of wood in his humble workshop, attracting collectors and curators from around the world. Considered an unlettered folk poet, Jose has more than 200 cordel, or chapbook, titles to his name and is still writing.

Yuzhen Pan
Minority People Textile Folk Artists Cooperative of Southwest China
Weaving, Embroidery and Batik
Yuzhen’s family continues to farm in Guizhou while she lives part time in Beijing working in an embroidery workshop and selling Miao textile items at an open air market.


As you can see, each artist comes with a story, a life-line that connects them to their region. It will surely be fascinating for anyone who can make it to the festival. But, I also think this is such a profoundly valuable opportunity for all of the participating artists. I have worked in multi-cultural groups for many years and remember how disturbing it was to me that each group has its own set of biases, misconceptions and stereotypes that can lead to racism and narrow-mindedness. This is not only about white people learning about the world and "helping" through their dollars, but instead, contact and interaction opens all people to a larger world filled with new opportunities. We all have the need to both give and receive, to teach and to learn, to share and to grow and this makes the world a safer, healthier and more dynamic place to live.

If you make it to the Market, please report back here and tell us how it went! Or, if you like to write, I would love to have your experiences documented in a post. Take lots of photos and share them with us! Someday I will make my pilgrimage, but until then, enjoy yours!

Visit the Santa Fé Convention and Visitors Bureau for travel info.




  1. Found more on Chuvash embroidery:

  2. How I wished I could visit this market!
    And you are so right about what you were saying - the interaction between artists and all folks is one of the most important ways to erase prejudices. It is THE means of education that is so desperately needed.
    Warm greetings from Munich!

  3. This look like the world's best market!

  4. Modern market focus on mass production. Artists design craft pieces that can easily be duplicated, and as a result, pieces like these are rare.

    As an interior designer, I want every home I've worked on to be unique. So similarly, I would much prefer an unique piece that I can pick out, and tailor my design based on that.


  5. Nicolette, If I'm reading your comment correctly, I understand you to say that the crafts at the folk market are mass produced. It is true that many crafts have characteristics that easily identify them to a specific village or culture. And, some crafts have been overproduced to the point of market saturation. How many carved giraffes from Kenya do we really need?

    Yet, craft production is a vital economic development model for many of these groups. The alternative would often be to work in factories or even to migrate to other countries for better paying entry level jobs. Craft production is often connected closely with agricultural cycles and allow village and social structures to remain intact or at least to evolve in a communal way.

    I do make a distinction between "artists" and "artisans" or "crafters". Not all crafts are "art", yet many of the traditional crafters practice arts that are quickly disappearing worldwide. I am encouraged by the renaissance of craft production here in the United States and support every effort that encourages any person to use their hands, bodies and minds to create on any level, be it crafts, art, music, dance, words, and everything else. We are far removed from the source of where things originate and craft production helps keep that connection alive.

    However, there are many craft techniques and traditions that need some guidance. As natural resources dwindle, more thought needs to go into what is made. Instead of ornamental giraffes, something functional like giraffe salad utensils or cd holders might have more value in terms of environmental concerns. Natural dyes have been replaced in many countries with commercial dyes that are toxic and damaging. So, within this vast potential, we also need education and consumer awareness.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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