Traffic was bad. That was the first clue; I couldn’t make it around the plaza without a dozen little stops and starts. The second clue was the seven foot tall figure in robes of resplendent white, browsing the deli at Whole Foods, and then a girl cloaked in beads whose nametag read “South Sudan.” The kickoff concert at the railyard, where I had a green chile burger on fry bread and watermelon juice from a truck and befriended the Nigerian metalworker, was the giveaway.
I’d been told this weekend was a big deal, that artists and buyers from around the world would descend in droves upon Santa Fe—or ascend, rather, to the market on Museum Hill. The International Folk Art Market is a yearly event. Hundreds of locals volunteer, hosting artists, guiding visitors into shuttles and sending them up the hill. The path to the market was wet with rainwater. Golden flags shaped like dangling hearts marked the way from the bus lot to the tent, and a girl in a plastic poncho with a smile like a cheerful camp counselor’s waved us along.
Everything seems more solid here when the sky is gray and depthless. In the high desert sun, things shimmer and fade. That day, though, the colors were permanent, the shapes concrete. There were sculptures and tapestries and carved wooden instruments. There were rugs and rings and painted masks. I was drawn to the textiles: a thick cotton scarf dyed with indigo, blankets handwoven in Madagascar from rough strands of silk yarn, Kazakh pillows of felted wool. Both the vendors and the buyers dressed colorfully, in the costume of their country or their folky-artsy best. Rain fell, and then there was thunder. The crowds in the tents crushed together, looking either for shelter or something to buy. There was plenty to buy. The food court sold everything from crepes to plantains; the prices for art ranged from ten dollars to thousands. The market felt endless. With silver, thread, and polished wood at every turn, and the occasional streak of white lightning, the market felt like the inside of a kaleidoscope. Or maybe it was more like a quilt, one of the vibrant patterns for sale there by a Pakistani woman: a patchwork of nations and traditions, painstakingly crafted and long in the making.
Below, is a Tapestry about the Market. Tapestry is a new platform that allows for the telling of succinct, paced and creative stories. Click anywhere on it to start and tap (if using a smart phone) or click to move forward.
Post and Tapestry by Natasha Balwit. Photos by Robert I Mesa.
To see more stories about the artists, visit: http://www.folkartalliance.org/artists-spotlight/