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Market a Feast for Senses, Success for Artists

SANTA FE, N.M. — Antonia Apodaca swayed and squeezed her accordion like a bellows with her Trio Jalapeño on the Santa Fe Bandstand on Saturday, with the thump of a stand-up bass providing the heartbeat to the 61st Annual Spanish Market.

A petite 88, she still plays with the fire of the chile she consumes daily.

Her stage patter morphed from Spanish to English to Spanglish and back.

If you go
WHAT: 61st Annual Traditional Spanish Market, 26th Annual Contemporary Hispanic Market
Traditional: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
Contemporary: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
WHERE: The Plaza

“Just try it, baby,” she coaxed a band member, adding, “He’s doing pretty good, I think, for being sick in his throat.”

If Apodaca supplied the heat with her regional folk music, the blazing sun provided a fire that blazed across the Plaza, tempered only by a whisper of a breeze. The rich fragrances of simmering chile, roasting corn and barbecue combined to tempt the palate from a string of tents sprouting along West Palace Avenue.

Saturday’s Traditional and Contemporary Spanish Markets sprawled across the Plaza with nearly 500 traditional and contemporary artists selling everything from paintings and jewelry to furniture and santos. Organizers expected more than 70,000 visitors to stroll through the booths over the weekend. The event brought a parade of strollers, from vaquero wanna-bes dripping in turquoise to the dancing balloon man entertaining youngsters in front of the Five and Dime. Most of the artists said sales were as good as or exceeded last year’s.

Santa Fe’s Nina Arroyo Wood sat spinning cream-colored churro fleece into yarn, hovering in the shade of her Lincoln Avenue booth. The blue ribbon designating a first place for colcha embroidery dangled from her piece. The textile depicted a purple-robed Christ surrounded by 12th-century symbols of the four apostles – a lion for Mark, a winged man for Matthew, a bull for Luke and an eagle for John. Her embroidery blanketed literally every inch of her Sabanilla labrada, or wool-on-wool canvas.

A long, coarse stitch in wool, the colcha may be one of the few textiles developed and made in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial period.

For Arroyo Wood, it all started when she took a colcha class at Santa Fe Community College in 1998. She had already been spinning and weaving for 30 years. She began by embroidering bears on quilts. Eventually her fingers followed her imagination through a Noah’s Ark of symbolism.

“It’s just addicting,” she said. “I’m a fiber-holic. To make all this stuff is very soothing.”

Timothy A. Valdez combined his woodworking background with straw appliqué to create wooden bowls speckled with delicate appliqué inlay. The stunning effect is similar to highly decorated American Indian pottery. A variation on European marquetry work, straw appliqué is known as the “poor man’s gold.” The artist razors sharp shards of straw into tiny puzzle pieces in a mosaic of pattern.

Valdez hand-cuts the wooden bowls using a hand saw. He worked on the hybrid piece for three months.

“I used to do bowls,” he said. “I thought I would combine them together.”

Española’s Racheal Roybal-Montoya created a convex, filigreed hair comb any señorita would be proud to wear beneath her mantilla. The piece is a web of intricately placed lace-like spirals and swirls. An oval-shaped garnet glitters at the crown. Roybal-Montoya collected antique versions of “peinetas” from local jewelers as she mapped out a design.

“I had a vision in my head,” she said. “I modified the basic shape with curls and swirls.”

The daunting work requires patience, she acknowledged.

“Every time you shape filigree, it wants to buckle,” she added.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll thread and twist wire all night long.”

Los Alamos’ Michelle Tapia makes whimsical dog and cat jewelry from fossilized walrus tusk.

Tapia learned the painstaking scrimshaw technique after working with famed Native American jewelry artist Denise Wallace (Chugach Aleut). She is quick to say that no walruses died to make her jewelry – the ivory is dug off St. Lawrence Island west of Alaska and can be up to 20,000 years old. She etches her pieces with ink, often adding turquoise, coral and moonstones to her pendants, earrings and pins. She has created a line of relicarios (small and large devotional pieces), including Catholic saints and Tibetan Buddhist deities, “When Cats Dream” (cats as mermaids, fairies and butterflies) and “Los Muertas Bonitas” (skulls).

A recent pendant combined a cat and a dog steering a Volkswagen with moonstone headlights. Tapia brought 50 pieces to the Contemporary Market. Sales were good; by mid-morning she had already sold 20.

“I’ve done what I did last year this morning,” she said.

Sometimes visitors express surprise and confusion that a Spanish woman born in Santa Fe is working in the nearly lost art of scrimshaw, which was practiced for centuries by the Inuit and other native groups along the Northwest Coast.

Tapia says her designs come from both her heart and her culture, stirred with her love for animals. She created many of the images as a child drawing or painting on rocks.

She also makes rabbits, mice, butterflies, birds, koi and even elephants. But one species outsells them all.

“Cats,” she said.

Tapia has exhibited at the Heard Museum Spanish Market in Phoenix and shows regularly at Packard’s on the Plaza.

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