This year’s Santa Fe Indian Market was another smashing success. For those of you who don’t live in the great state of New Mexico, Indian Market is a 90-year-old tradition celebrating Native American arts and culture. With metalsmiths, beaders and artisans coming from across the country to show off their work, the jewelry on display is always spectacular.
This year, two of Rio Grande’s own were asked to be judges in the jewelry division. Eddie Bell, one of Rio’s directors, was a judge in the Contemporary Jewelry category, and Sessin Durgham, tech expert and craftsman extraordinaire, was a judge in the Pre-Columbian/Beading category.
The week-long event left Sessin amazed at the quality of work he witnessed and with plenty of stories! Listening to him talk about the jewelers he met and all of the events and artwork made me wish I was there.
Apart from judging, he picked up a few pieces for himself at the market, including a painting that was in the Smile Competition (in which the piece of art that makes the judges smile the most wins).The artist, Sequoia Anderson, is 10 years old and also won first place for painting in the youth category.
He also picked up a bolo tie created by Maria Tafoya, a jeweler from Santo Domingo Pueblo (also known as Kewa).
Rio also sponsored an award of its own at the Market for best use of material. The winner was Carlton Jamon, who created an exquisite sterling silver vessel containing a necklace. Traditional fetishes adorn the outside of the container and can be detached and hung from the necklace. The piece was crafted entirely from silver sheet and wire.
The vessel holds the necklace; the fetishes attached to the outside can be removed and added to the necklace.
The Market brought jewelers and artists from across the country (and the world!) together. Sessin marveled at running into a woman he first met at the SNAG conference six years ago.
"It’s so cool to see that there are other people out there who make the pilgrimage to New Mexico to see the metal work," he said.
While all of the jewelry on display was remarkable, the collaborative Friendship Necklace—which was created by thirteen different jewelers from a variety of pueblos and tribes—stole the show. The piece was modeled after a traditional squash blossom necklace, and each jeweler contributed a different element— from the 60 handcrafted sterling silver beads to the ten individual pendants to the naja, or centerpiece of the necklace. Taken as a whole, the piece represents an incredible diversity of native jewelry styles. Valued at $50,000, it was auctioned off to benefit the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, or SWAIA, which sponsors the market each year.
Eddie and Sessin are already looking forward to next year’s event. Indian Market is held each August in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mark your calendar now—maybe you’ll see them there next summer!
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