Santa Fe Indian Market is well known around the world, attracting not only the top artists to this juried event, but also hundreds of thousands of visitors eager to see the amazing creations these artists have made.  There are a number of other well known, but somewhat smaller, Indian Markets around the country, primarily in the spring and summer months.  The Heard Museum in Phoenix kicks off the season with their show at the start of March.  The Autry Museum in Los Angeles, the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, the Museum of Northern Art in Flagstaff, and others all have their markets, and the artists make their travel plans to participate.

But there is one smaller venue that doesn’t get as much attention as these larger ones.  It is SWAIA’s Winter Market, held between Thanksgiving and Christmas in picturesque Santa Fe.

Michael and I had a chance to go to Winter Market this year.  His final exam schedule cooperated, which it often doesn’t do, and we trundled up the road to Santa Fe.

We arrived on Wednesday evening, planning on spending Thursday and Friday visiting friends.  What a surprise when we arose on Thursday morning to find several inches of snow on the ground.  Santa Fe turned from picturesque to a winter wonderland in a blink of the eye.

We carefully drove down to Albuquerque on Thursday to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) so I could indulge in my favorite blue corn onion rings, and so that we could see the gingerbread house competition that they sponsor each year.  We are always excited to see the lovely creations from both children and adults.  This year, our dear friend Roger Deale Jr., a talented Navajo painter, won second place with his entry.  I would really have enjoyed taking it home with me.

On our way back up to Santa Fe, we stopped and visited our friends, the Cajeros. Althea is a very talented jeweler, and some of her creations will find their way to the Rabbit website in the near future.  Just need to get the pictures and writeups done.  Althea’s husband Joe is a sculptor, and he does very detailed bronzes.  Michael favored the white buffalo, and I was quite intrigued with the Corn Dancer he is currently sculpting out of clay, before it goes to the foundry for pouring.

For dinner, we headed over to the Coyote Grill and Cantina, and our dear friends John Valdes and Everet Apodaca of Santa Fe Antiques (spoiler alert – you MUST go to Santa Fe Antiques and check out their items) hosted us for dinner.  John and Everet know everybody in Santa Fe, and we were warmly greeted by the restaurant owner, the chef, the bartender, and pretty much everyone else in the place.  An unbelievable feast ensured, and we had an unforgettable evening with our friends.  They even drove us back to our hotel, showing us the evening Christmas lights on the Plaza, at St. Francis Cathedral, and throughout the city.  The lights on the Plaza are stunning, as all the 50 and 75 foot tall trees are draped in colored stands, and the light snow backdrop reflected the lights beautifully.

On Friday, we visited some of our Santa Fe favorites, including Clafoutis for lunch.  Who can turn down a magnificent quiche for lunch, sitting right next to the patisserie loaded with fresh baked desserts?  Not I, that is for sure.  That evening, we headed over to the historic La Fonda hotel, where the artist reception was being held.  I had a chance to wear my full length stone martin fur – thank you John Valdes for finding me this vintage fur in perfect condition!  It didn’t hurt my ego at all to turn a few heads!

The La Fonda hotel hosted the Winter Market, and the staff did a wonderful job squeezing 150 artists into the ballroom, mezzanine, and two ground floor meeting rooms.  Having said that, the aisles were nice and wide, and it didn’t have the feel of being crowded, even when the Saturday crowd was at its peak.  There was even a small dance floor, where Native American dancers and musicians entertained the crowd throughout the weekend.

SWAIA organizes and funds Winter Market, much as they do the August Indian Market.  I was quite struck by the degree of organization and smooth execution that I saw at Winter Market, and remarked to a somewhat overheated Santa (Ira Wilson) how impressed I was with the event.  Ira is just finishing his first year at the helm of SWAIA, and in my humble opinion he has made great strides in righting the ship and returning it to a course of growth and success.  Now that Ira and his tiny team have gone through one year together, I am looking forward to seeing even more successes in upcoming years.

Winter Market is not a juried show, but in order to apply, Native American artists must have been juried into the prior August Indian Market.  Thus, you still see the best of the best at this event, and we were not at all disappointed.  There is quite a competition for the first-come, first-serve spots at Winter Market.  It was quite fun going down the aisles and seeing friendly faces, getting hugs, and catching up with different artists we have known for years.  Because the venue is indoors and has fewer artists, we were able to spend some good quality time with many that we don’t have time to do at larger venues.  While this wasn’t intended to be an inventory acquisition trip, we did end up with a few pieces of jewelry that we will be featuring in the upcoming online exhibition and small book.  How can a girl resist all that shiny stuff?

SWAIA held a toy drive this year at Winter Market, and collected quite a few new, unwrapped toys that will be carefully wrapped and distributed to children in the pueblos that might not otherwise have much of a Christmas.  This seemingly simple effort really extends the mission of SWAIA, not just as an association of artists, but as an association that looks to improve the lives of Native Americans.  The youth competition at Indian Market is another example of lifting up the next generation, something we should all embrace.

After a couple of days at Winter Market, Michael and I were ready to play a little in Santa Fe.  We had a chance to go to dinner with some friends each night, and even drove up to Taos for a lovely lunch with a talented photographer and concert violinist, Debbie Lujan.  We visited the Santa Fe Cooking School and looked at their calendar of upcoming classes.  And we looked at all the sights of Santa Fe in the wintertime, with the light dusting of snow (that is what they call 4 to 6 inches) making everything serene and peaceful.  Finally, after a week and a half of Santa Fe, we had to turn our car to the southeast and head back to Texas, just in time for Christmas.  Until next time, Santa Fe… 

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