Mert and his wife Heidi moved from Sarasota, Florida a little over six years ago. His father-in-law, John Blom, published a seminal work on Southwestern pottery about twenty years ago, and was a strong influence in Mert’s decision to get into the Native American gallery business.
Starting under Robert Nichols, Mert quickly learned the in’s and out’s of running a gallery. A couple of years ago, Mert took the big step and opened his own small gallery, Pottery of the Southwest. It was located on Canyon Road next to Al Anthony’s Adobe Gallery, but last week Mert moved a couple of spots up the road to a much more spacious, well-lit, and inviting space. We went in and were blown away with the beautiful wood floors, square wood beams, and of course, the meticulous way in which Mert shows the art to its best advantage, carrying themes throughout each section of his gallery.
He has a grouping of ledger art showing Native American women by Sheridan McKnight and Karen Clarkson, and another grouping of sculptures and pottery by Kathleen Wall. And Mert is expanding with some jewelry, baskets, and rugs to round out his representation of Southwestern art.
Talk to any gallery owner, and you will quickly find out that they don’t operate galleries for the money. In fact, most gallery owners would be much better off financially if they didn’t have galleries. So I asked Mert – why do you do this? I already knew what he was going to say, but I wanted him to confirm my suspicions.
Of course, Mert said his father-in-law had been an influence, giving him a doctoral education in pottery. Mert, being a very gregarious person, said that he also enjoys meeting people and chatting with them about the amazing art and artists of the American Southwest. He meets a lot of people new to pottery collecting, and spends time with them talking about how the clay is hand-gathered, how the artists fashion and paint the pots, and how they fire them. Most people are astonished at how much work goes into a traditionally made, authentic Native American pot, and Mert enjoys seeing the spark of interest ignite in these folks.
Mert also enjoys meeting with artists, as he learns a lot about them and their culture with each conversation. As a gallery owner, he tries to help artists whenever he can, particularly if an artist is in between sales and has bills to cover. As a SMALL gallery, he can only do so much, but his heart is so big that he tries hard. After all, Mert has his own bills to pay and family to support.
Finally, Mert said that he loves being a part of the very small community of Native American gallery owners. Even though many of them carry the same artists and sell the same art as he does, the competition among gallery owners is fairly low. Mert says, “More galleries carrying Native American art means more exposure to the general population of these wonderful artists and their art. More galleries stimulate awareness, rather than hinder it.”
If you get a chance to wander up Canyon Road in Santa Fe, make sure you stop by Mert’s Pottery of the Southwest and say hello. It is a stop well worth your time.