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Merchant-artisans at holiday festival

Artist Michelle La Meres transforms old wine bottles into fused-glass art.

Artist Michelle La Meres transforms old wine bottles into fused-glass art.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The work of 200 craftsmen and artisans from New Mexico and around the country are featured in next weekend’s 14th annual Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Holiday Show at EXPO New Mexico. Santa Fe jeweler Claudia Chavez is participating for the first time.

“I’m so excited to be in this show,” said Chavez, who is part of the Santa Fe Plaza Vendor Program and exhibits her work at Contemporary Hispanic Market. “I’m trying to branch out.”

While Chavez brings earrings and bracelets to the show, her top-selling flower garden necklaces have a starring role in her booth.

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“I’ve been making them since 1997,” she explained. “They have natural stones, pearls, seed beads and glass beads. I wrap them using a special technique I came up with. Each necklace has a glass flower bead in its center.”

Reclaimed glass bottles are the primary materials used in Michelle La Meres’ fused-glass work. An Albuquerque artisan who has participated in the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Holiday Show for the past seven years, La Meres takes used empty wine bottles and transforms them into works of art.

“I put bottles into one of my kilns that’s heated to 1,500 degrees so I can flatten them out,” she said. “The whole process from start to finish takes about 13 hours. Sometimes I make the bottles into cheese and sushi trays or bowls. When I keep them as flattened bottles, they are decorated with a glass bead and a wire on top so they can be hung on the wall. I place a detachable cheese knife on the front of each bottle.”

Santa Fe jeweler Claudia Chavez will be showing and selling her flower garden necklaces at the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Holiday Show.

Santa Fe jeweler Claudia Chavez will be showing and selling her flower garden necklaces at the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Holiday Show.

Newly married couples have commissioned La Meres to flatten their used champagne bottles so they are preserved for years to come. One couple celebrating their 60th anniversary asked her to melt and flatten out their celebratory bottle.

La Meres’ work also includes adhering colorful glass beads on clay forms. One recent large piece features a clay skull of a cow covered with a kaleidoscope of beads.

All participating craftsmen and artisans have been juried into the show. More than a third of them live and work in New Mexico. The Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Holiday Show in November is one of three annual juried shows sponsored by Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festivals.

In addition to perusing the booths, visitors can enjoy continuous live entertainment. Pianists Larry Freedman, Lindy Gold and Calvin Appleberry are among the keyboard players presenting a mix of holiday music and their favorite pieces. The Fanfare Victorian Carolers perform, as do Syd Masters and The Swing Riders and Mariachi Fiesta Internacional.

Special entertainment for children is on hand and features the Pink Elephant Theater Magic Show, the interactive rhythm band Recycle Man and Mrs. Claus Story Time. There also are complimentary photo opportunities with Santa Claus. Food can be purchased on Culinary Row.

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