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A holiday spin on Indian Market

December 15, 2018

Santa hats, wreaths and twinkling Christmas trees contrasted with rows of tables and panels displaying Native American art as preparations were underway Friday for the 17th annual Winter Indian Market.

The market opened Friday evening and continues through Sunday at La Fonda on the Plaza, offering handmade goods from 150 Native artists from around New Mexico and throughout the Southwest.

The Winter Indian Market — a much smaller version of the massive Santa Fe Indian Market held on the Plaza each year in August — not only gives Native artists another chance to sell their wares, but also gives holiday shoppers a range of gift options, with items ranging from $10 to $10,000, a spokeswoman said.

“This is the time of mass consumerism,” said Amanda Crocker, public relations and marketing director for the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the organization that presents both markets each year. “Do it with gifts that may mean something more than shopping at Walmart.”

Crocker said the winter counterpart to the summer Indian Market is a more intimate event. While thousands of people meander around hundreds of booths packed on the Plaza for the summer affair, the winter market is held indoors and draws a smaller crowd — about 300 people last year, she said.

“I like to call it the locals’ Indian Market,” Crocker said.

The winter market also differs because of its holiday spin — with a variety of clay ornaments, Nativity scenes and stocking stuffer-sized art in the mix.

Renowned Navajo basket weaver Sally Black, a regular for years at the summer Indian Market who is showing at the winter market for the first time, incorporated a little Christmas spirit into one of her woven baskets, creating the image of a Christmas tree with presents underneath.

Black, who lives in Arizona’s Monument Valley, said she’d been invited to the winter show in the past but never had enough new baskets ready to sell in time for the holiday season.

This year, she said, she worked night and day to prepare baskets for her booth — and she was glad she did.

“I get to see all my friends,” Black said Friday afternoon as she set up her booth. “I can see everybody again and get to meet some more people.”

On the other side of the room, Choctaw Nation artist Stephen McCullough was setting up panels to display paintings by him and his twin brother, Michael McCullough.

Paintings are not typically given as holiday gifts, Stephen McCullough said; still, he added, the winter market is an opportunity for the brothers to show their work in a more intimate setting.

The Winter Indian Market is an attraction in itself, he said. “It’s part of an overall experience in Santa Fe at Christmastime.”

Eldorado resident Dawn Dark Mountain, an Oneida Nation watercolor artist, said she enjoys the festivity of the winter market, which draws a different type of crowd.

Dark Mountain makes sure she’s well-stocked with smaller pieces that are more likely to appeal to travelers and gift-givers.

Unlike the summer market, which doesn’t permit any type of reproductions, the winter market also allows her to sell notecards with images of her watercolors.

“They do well at this time of year,” she said.

And, she said, having another chance to put art in front of buyers — especially during the holiday season — can make a difference for Native artists, many of whom rely heavily on revenues from the summer Indian Market to carry them through the year.

“As working artists, you don’t want to count on all your income in one time of the year,” Dark Mountain said.

Above all, Crocker said, the winter market is a time to celebrate and support Native artists.

“It’s beyond shopping local,” she said. “It’s shopping Native.”

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