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Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival offers colorful kickoff to yule season

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This year’s 17th annual Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival Holiday Show beckons visitors with quilts, jewelry, baskets, glass, clothing, painting and more.

"Pauline's Ford" by Rod Daniel.

“Pauline’s Ford” by Rod Daniel.

The shop-fest brings 185 artists, about 40 of them new to the show, to Expo New Mexico’s Manuel Lujan Building on Thanksgiving weekend. The event includes live entertainment, along with a “culinary row” to sate appetites. Kids can play at complimentary crafts tables and take photographs with Santa.

Las Cruces’ Jan Severson weaves baskets in a rainbow of color combinations. She spends hours shaping soaked strands of hand-dyed reeds into decorative pieces. This marks her fourth year at Rio Grande.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about them,” she said. “I’m always trying to think what would be different.

“I’ll see a piece of wood or a horse harness, and I’ll think, ‘What can I do with that to make it unique?’ ”

Severson learned from a friend and was immediately hooked. She amassed a collection of books and began ordering reeds from Indonesia through a New York supplier.

“Aurora Borealis,” with its concentric circles of color, remains one of her most popular pieces, she said.

“Sun Shot” stands on a trio of found deer antlers.

“Sun Shot” by Jan Severson.

“Sun Shot” by Jan Severson.

“I either order shed antlers or people bring them to me,” Severson said. “You sit it on a table.”

She soaks the reeds in warm water for one minute to render them pliable before curling them into sculpted shapes. Severson shows her work in Ruidoso and El Paso. This marks her fourth year at the event.

Rod Daniel of Placitas creates shimmering art quilts from hand-dyed fabric. The retired Albuquerque band director fell in love with fiber after taking a quilting class in Monterey, Calif., five years ago.

“I’ve always been involved with art in some way,” he said. “I discovered I could use fabric like paint and started looking for the perfect piece of fabric and texture. I’ve got drawers of stashes of fabric.”

A yellow and orange row of poppies formed in his mind before he committed “Poppies” to cloth. Each flower consists of 25 to 30 pieces of cloth. He pieces them together using an adhesive, then machine-stitches them.

“Sometimes they’re the size of postage stamps,” he said, “so you don’t see a sharp transition.”

“Pauline’s Ford” owes its title to a late member of the New Mexico Quilters Association. The group presented Daniel with a ribbon for the piece at the New Mexico State Fair. It was only his second quilt.

“That Ford was on Route 66 in Holbrook, Ariz.,” he said.

“Cowgirls” by Jany Seda.

“Cowgirls” by Jany Seda.

Daniel’s partner, Jim Carrevale, photographed the old truck. Daniel halfheartedly entered the piece in the 2011 State Fair, never expecting to hear from the judges again. He got a phone calling informing him he’d won Best of Show.

“So my head was spinning bigger and faster than it should have,” he said.

Daniel also shows his work at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in Ruidoso and at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colo. This marks his third appearance at Rio Grande.

Boise’s Jany Seda took up painting after she lost everything in the Great Recession. People bought her work from the start, and she won a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Seda is known for her paintings of cowboys, cowgirls, cattle and horses. She says she returns to those images because they represent the American West.

“It’s the adventure, the ruggedness of being outside,” she said.

She calls her work impressionistic with an abstract edge.

“I don’t paint from photographs,” she said. “I want it to look like from a distance you see what’s there and up close it abstracts.”

This marks her Rio Grande debut.