The Road to Indian Market 2010: Charlene Holy Bear Lakota Sioux ‘Best of Class’ Doll Maker

As SWAIA Indian Market approaches each year, you find that everyone is engrossed in preparation for whatever they may be working on, and inevitably, things go by the wayside.  Take my schedule, for instance. I was working hard, commuting to Santa Fe and trying to keep up with my “The Road to Indian Market 2010” series.  While it wasn’t nearly as stressful to put together as my “Heard @ The Heard 2010” series (, I found the hours in the day dwindling away just prior to Market. 
A few weeks before, I had made plans to meet with Standing Rock Lakota Sioux doll maker Charlene Holy Bear at her hotel to watch her work putting the final touches on her pieces and interview her about the specific “road” she took to Indian Market this year.  Unfortunately, bad timing got in the way, so we agreed that we would meet up at her booth during the weekend.   Not surprisingly, Holy Bear, who has been participating in Indian Market as an adult for the last several years, won “Best in Class” in the Diverse Art category this year. This meant that her submission would be on display at the Friday night SWAIA preview event at the Santa Fe Convention Center.  The evening was full of magic and Holy Bear gave me the opportunity to chat briefly with her while fresh off of her win. 
Holy Bear’s work, which generally incorporates Lakota beadwork designs, quillwork, and parfleche designs, are handmade and inspired by Plains traditional dolls, which were flat and more utilitarian–they were used to teach girls about their roles in life.  Holy Bear’s dolls are three-dimensional and honor the doll-making tradition with beauty and more of a contemporary style with art replacing the idea of utility. Her winning piece, for instance, utlizes a beaded Oriental-style fan in the dancer’s hand, which is a unique and nontraditional touch.  The dancer’s body is made from clay, which alone took an entire year to create. It then took an additional two years to design the clothing and add the beadwork.
The following interview is a combination of video shot on Friday evening as well as during the weekend.  Get to know Charlene Holy Bear HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: The Nampeyo Legacy with the Sahmie Sisters of Hopi

Even when an artist has years of experience, the road to SWAIA Indian Market can be long. The Sahmie Sisters, direct descendants of the greatest of all Hopi potters Nampeyo, for instance are no exception.  While Nyla Sahmie does not participate in Indian Market, Rachel Sahmie, and Jean Sahme Nampeyo (Jean spells her last name without the ‘i’.) do.  In spite of their lineage,  even these ladies aren’t guaranteed a problem-free process prior to Indian Market. They sometimes lose pots, just like every artist who participates.

What doesn’t fail these three fabulous women is their zest for life and wonderful senses of humor. As a matter of fact, they are all so dynamic in three different ways, that you can scarcely pick your favorite Sahmie Sister.  While they all take things in stride and laugh at life, what they do take seriously is the responsibility of being Nampeyo.  To them, that means carrying on the name with grace and adherence to the traditions of the past, which have carried them through the present and will lead them into the future. The quality and specialness of their work is undeniable.
The week prior to the 2010 SWAIA Indian Market, Nyla, Rachel and Jean all came to Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery from Hopi to meet with customers and present a comprehensive show of their work. Nyla, the vivacious middle sister, while skilled and most interested in creating as large of pots as possible, brought along some of her miniatures, and Rachel, the youngest sister, brought a wonderful large canteen with a design reminiscent of the work of Sadie Adams, as well a bowl, an olla and two large cylinders with her own designs that adhere to traditional Nampeyo form and methods. Rachel always likes to ask the collector “what do you see?” and that is what I love best about her. The quietest and the oldest of the three is Jean Sahme. Jean, who is a teacher, is known for her large, gorgeous cylinders, and she didn’t disappoint fans at Andrews by bringing some of her best work to show and sell.
All three women are daughters of Priscilla Namingha Nampeyo and they use only traditional methods of forming, painting and firing their pottery. As part of my “The Road to Indian Market 2010” series, I decided to interview these three sisters, who keep everyone on their toes. Learn about their heritage as members of the Nampeyo Family and their distinct styles in my video interview with them HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Setting the Standard with SWAIA’s Carole Sandoval

“The Road to Indian Market 2010” has highlighted the artists and the dealers, but what about all the work that the folks at SWAIA put into the SWAIA Indian Market every year?  The road to Market is very long for them, and they begin taking steps for the next year’s Market just as the current one is ending.  It takes a lot of hours, brainstorming and coordinating to make the world’s largest Indian market go off without a hitch.

Someone who knows a great deal about ensuring that things move smoothly is Ohkay Owingeh artist Carole Sandoval, who focuses most of her time on her positions as Vice Chair of SWAIA and Chairperson of the SWAIA Indian Market Standards Committee.   As Chair of the Standards Committee, Sandoval helps to form the criteria by which all artists who submit their work to be considered to sell at Market are judged.  They also dictate how pieces submitted for ribbons are evaluated.  It’s a painstaking process for all involved.    Objectivity in the judging process is also key in making sure that winners are fairly awarded.  That’s why all judging is blind.  For artists, such as Sandoval, who have to balance an art career and their jobs with SWAIA, the road to Indian Market is more complicated and requires incredible discipline.

In my interview with Carole Sandoval, she addresses every aspect of the standards and judging process and talks candidly about some of the pleasures and pitfalls of the job, as well as how honored she is that her aunt, Geronima Cruz Montoya was selected as the poster artist for this year’s SWAIA Indian Market.  Watch her interview HERE:

(Note: This series is in no way affiliated with SWAIA or SWAIA Indian Market. The term Indian Market is used with permission and the 2010 SWAIA poster is copyrighted by SWAIA.)

The Road to Indian Market 2010: The Poeticness of Laguna Potter Max Early

Paguate, New Mexico, one of the many villages of Laguna Pueblo, and just about an hour east of Albuquerque is home to Pueblo potter Max Early.  Early saw the height of his pottery career during the 1990s, but later, the now forty-something potter, decided to further his education going back to school to get his degree in English with an emphasis in poetry and fiction.  In order to do that, Early took a break from his pottery, but now he’s back with a whole new concept–the infusion of his poetry and pottery.  

This year, Early created a traditional pot with bold designs, for which he is known , and then added the text of one of his poems about making pottery around the neck of the piece.  Unfortunately,  shortly after I made the journey out to Laguna to interview him, the piece collided with shards from another piece of pottery that broke apart during the firing process.  It caused an unrepairable crack from top to bottom.  This kept Early from submitting the pot for judging at the 2010 SWAIA Indian Market.  It was to be his comeback piece.  I saw Early at Market on Saturday, and while the piece seems defeated, Early is not.  He is proudly displaying the pot at his booth throughout the entire Indian Market weekend.  It sits amidt wonderful depictions of turkeys, ducks and miniature pieces made by Early and his aspiring potter sons David and Alan.

As a man who comes from a Native and Irish background, Early brings a unique perspective to the Pueblo experience and pottery-making process.  As a young man, Early was told that working with clay could only be done by women in the village, but Early has pushed the envelope to make himself one of the finest potters in Laguna. 

As part of my interview with the artist, he took me around Paguate to get a feel for the Pueblo life that infuses Early’s pottery with a gentleness and charm that embodies the artist himself. We spent time visiting abandoned buildings, his grandmother’s old home, which now serves as Early’s clay grinding house, and learning about some of the history.  Watch Early talk about his pottery-making process and get a glimpse into Pueblo life at Paguate HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Diné Jewelry Designer Fritz Casuse

Unalarming, unassuming, unconcerned with time constraints describes the vibe I got from Diné (Navajo) jewelry designer Fritz Casuse when I recently went to his home and studio just outside Santa Fe to interview him. His young son, Mossimo, whom he shares with jewelry designer and birch bark biting artist Wanesia Misquadace, grabbed my hand immediately and then excitedly attempted to drag me out back to see his new puppies. From the minute I arrived, I could tell that the house was an inspirational place, full of love, fun and bursting with creativity. Of course, the art on the walls spoke loads about the friendships that the couple share with other artists. Fritz went into the garage, which houses his workshop, to “straighten up.” Apparently, there were toys everywhere and things were in disarray. I explained that I had seen worse, and the less organized it was, the better visual for an interview, because I wanted to catch him midstream–in the midst of absolute creativity.

The interview began only after I had the opportunity to see a cavalcade of his work in gold, silver, set with diamonds, pearls, agate, jasper, coral and more. This included his SWAIA Indian Market submission piece, which took 2nd place on Friday afternoon’s judging. What I saw, floored me. My jaw is still dragging, and my brain is reeling with “how did he do that?” and “that is the most exquisite thing I have ever seen!” And that’s how it is…the “Fritz Experience” as I am calling it, is a paradox when you consider the genuine meekness of the artist and the pomp and circumstance of his works. Relatively quiet about himself and his work, Fritz gave me the first ever in-studio interview and really opened things up for people to see how he does what he does and get a glimpse into the mind that creates extraordinary one-of-a-kind works of art.

Upon entering his studio, I noticed a number of football action figures, still in their original packaging, hanging on the walls. Fritz was quick to explain that the artist, Todd McFarlane, creator of the comic book series Spawn, is one of his inspirations because of the level of detail he puts into his designs. McFarlane is also the artist that creates figures of professional football players. One might not quickly associate football with fine handmade jewelry, but it’s those details in the design work that remind Fritz what he is striving for every time he picks up his tools. All technicalities and immense creativity aside, Fritz points out that above all he wants to have fun when he teaches and creates in the studio. He also explained that his attention to detail comes from a disciplined background of painting and sculpting, which helps him when he creates what he calls his wearable “miniature sculptures.”

Impressively, Fritz is the main collaborator on a piece designed for Carolyn Pollack Jewelry. Fellow designers Cody Sanderson, Veronica Benally and Roderick Tenorio all joined forces to build the piece and then donate to SWAIA for its annual auction. While a truncated cast version of the garden-themed squash blossom will be available to the general public through QVC and, all four artists donated their materials and time to mastermind this original, handmade piece, which is a series of flowers, insects, including lovely butterflies and lady bugs. The necklace will be auctioned off this evening.

In spite of his reputation for being relatively quiet, in an interview setting, this bona fide “nice guy” seems very at ease and is, perhaps, one of the most articulate artists I have ever interviewed. I found myself getting wrapped up in his natural charm and his ability to talk clearly and thoughtfully about his jewelry as well as what he does to get ready for Indian Market. See what Fritz Casuse has to say about his work in my studio chat with him HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Diné Painter and Pastel Artist Monty H. Singer

I first became aware of the art of Diné (Navajo) self-taught painter and pastel artist Monty H. Singer at Fire God Gallery in Santa Fe. Influenced by the film noir genre, the work exhibited there featured velvety female nudes objectified in a very raw sexual and dark way. His pastel pieces have a very photographic quality, which have a way of drawing you into their world.

This year will mark Singer’s third year journeying down the road to SWAIA Indian Market. Upon visiting his home studio, one gets the sense that he is extremely organized and can easily multitask to get ready for Market. What’s amazing is that Singer can work on so many genres at one time. Never having met the artist, I was prepared, based on the nude works that I had seen, to come face-to-face with someone highly intense, visceral, slightly tormented and filled with rage, but, in truth, Singer is really a brilliant artist, with a calm disposition, who can capture a variety of moods and themes and can talk very intellectually about it all.

That’s not to say there isn’t rage inside him, which he talked candidly about in his interview with Uncle Paulie’s World. Some of the things that fill him with that anger are fetal alcohol disease, with which many people in his family have been afflicted, along with the racism directed towards mixed raced Indians on the Navajo Reservation. This is a particularly strong subject for the artist since his niece is half Navajo, half Black. In fact, the day that I visited his studio, Singer was hard at work at the beginnings of a pastel portrait of his niece decked out in traditional Navajo clothing and jewelry. Based on a photograph, he subsequently finished the piece the following day with tremendous results. He is also working on a series about fetal alcohol disease as well, which ekoves intense emotion and empathy on the part of the spectator.  The empathy is then followed by a horribly disturbed feeling.  Singer really knows how to provoke.

In addition to the stylized nudes, Singer also creates photo-realistic “in your face” rock formations. A departure from the norm, Singer even recently finished a piece that combines his love of nudes with abstract qualities. And while the subject was naked, she seemed almost a seraphim-like, and lacked the darkness and raw sexuality that he is accustomed to painting. The convergence of the abstract (The background was added after the female figure.) with the nude had an interesting effect that Singer wasn’t quite sure worked. I suggested that it was indeed something that someone at Indian Market would be interested in buying.

Monty Singer talked to me at length about his work and what it’s like to be a participating SWAIA Indian Market artist. Check his art out and unique perspective HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: The Pottery Process with Kathleen Wall of Jemez Pueblo

Jemez Pueblo potter Kathleen Wall is perhaps one of the most featured artists on my blog, and for good reason–she’s fabulously talented!  Her koshare clown sculptures and realistic portraits of Pueblo people in clay make people smile as well as astound.   For any artist, their mood or the place at which they are in their life dictates the work, and Kathleen is no exception.  Every single piece she makes is different, regardless of similiarity in tone, color, or subject matter.   They also reflect the people in her life, whether it’s her little sister Julia or one of her three children.  The Wall piece that I acquired earlier this year is a combined portrait of her sister and her youngest boy, Jesse.  For me, the added pleasure of the piece is knowing whom I’m looking at every time I steal a glance.  For the first month of having him in my home, I scarcely had the desire to sleep because I just wanted to stay up and keep looking at him to enjoy the sculpture’s marvelous energy.  I’m quite certain that for faithful collectors of her work, the feeling is the same.

Wall, who is an alumnus of IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been participating in SWAIA Indian Market since she was twenty-four years-old.  She’s now in her late thirties.  She has been a well-recognized artist since she was in her mid-teens, and her recognition has brought much success to the other members of her family, who are all artists as well.

All the success, though, has never changed Wall’s attitude about life and art.  She is still the down-to-earth, no-nonsense artist, who has kept the same rituals year after year as she prepares to bring her beautiful creations to Indian Market.  Last month, I had the opportunity to stop by her Jemez studio, an old Pueblo house that her late grandfather built on the reservation, to talk to her about what it takes for Kathleen Wall to make it down the road to Indian Market.  Wall talked to me openly about the things that mark the season for her and how Market has changed how she works and lives her life.  She also gave a full demonstration of the koshare-making process, which I found fascinating.  It was as if I was in the maternity ward of a hospital and had the chance to see where and how Wall “gave birth” to the piece that I cherish as one of the most special pieces of art in my collection.  There’s also a peek into the creation of her Indian Market submission pieces, which may just make their way into bronze in the coming months. 

For collectors, who may not be aware of the entire pottery-making process, or those who simply will not be able to stop by her Indian Market booth (#224 PAL) this year, I fondly make my interview with Wall available HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: The Bark and Bite of Ojibwe Artist Wanesia Misquadace

I first met birch bark biting artist and jewelry deisgner Wanesia Misquadace at the Native Treasures show in Santa Fe this past spring. In spite of the fact that we had never met,  a couple of months before, she had added me as a Facebook friend.  So, we felt like we already knew each other when we finally did meet face-to-face. The mother of little Mossimo, whom she shares with her husband Diné jewelry designer Fritz Casuse (who I will profile later this week on “The Road to Indian Market 2010”), Misquadace also balances a career as wife and artist and does it all well! As a matter of fact, Misquadace is one of only about ten artists in North America that does birch bark biting, which involves peeling the thin layers off of the birch tree, and then biting the bark with the eyetooth to create beautiful designs ranging from turtles to flowers or hummingbirds.  Wanesia has been doing SWAIA Indian Market for the last five years, and her birch biting techniques have led to incorporating them into gorgeous fine jewelry as well.
Lucky for me, I recently caught Wanesia attending art openings in downtown Santa Fe, and she talked to me about what the road to Indian Market is like for her. If you are in Santa Fe for the 2010 Indian Market on August 21 and 22, come by her booth (#SF519) and say hello. In the meantime, get to know Wanesia by watching her video interview HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Pueblo Pottery and Art Dealer Robert Andrews

While many collectors don’t think of Albuquerque when they think of SWAIA Indian Market, some actually make a plan to check things out at ABQ’s Old Town Plaza.  There are a number of shops offering authentic, handmade Native American art, but Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery by far has the best selection of contemporary Pueblo pottery and art in town with some of the best prices in New Mexico, including the work of 2008  Indian Market “Best in Show” artist Sheldon Harvey.  Owner Bob Andrews’ prices are so competitive, it makes it worth the trip on the New Mexico Railrunner or by car just to see what you can find. 
Since I spend a great deal of time at Andrews, it was a no-brainer to talk to Bob about how the economy has affected the gallery, what they do to attract Indian Market goers to the gallery, and how the whole season contributes to his business’s bottom line.  Watch my interview with Bob Andrews HERE:

The Road to Indian Market 2010: Jewelry Designer and Painter Tony Abeyta

It seems that whatever artist Tony Abeyta touches turns to gold.   Abeyta, a Navajo artist, son of the late Navajo painter Ha-So-De (Narciso Abeyta), seems confidently grounded as it concerns his career, in spite of his lineage.  While seemingly relaxed, you get the sense that the wheels in his head are constantly turning and, no matter what else he’s doing at that moment, he’d like to get back into the studio to create.  Perhaps that’s why he is always challenging himself–experimenting with style and reinventing himself at every turn.  You have to ask the question, is there nothing that this wonderboy can’t do?  I’m inclined to think there’s not!
That’s why when I read on Facebook a few months ago that he was chipping away at a new jewelry collection, I wasn’t really surprised.  After all, Abeyta is one of the most innovative Native American artists of his generation.  I was really excited to see what he came up with and find out more about the collection, which he describes as Charles Loloma-esque without all the detailed inlay work. Lucky for me, I ran into him at an event at Santa Fe’s Shiprock last month and he gave me the opportunity to pick his brain about it all, as well as find out what it’s like for him as he gets ready for Indian Market season. 
“Market,” as it is referred to by insiders, is an important time for Native artists, and Abeyta is no exception.  While he hasn’t had a booth on Santa Fe’s Plaza for some time (He is represented by Blue Rain Gallery), SWAIA Indian Market is one of the top three Native arts shows in the country, and collectors come from all over the world to buy the best of the best, including Abeyta’s work.  Sales anywhere in Santa Fe can provide an artist with the lion’s share of his or her annual income.
Abeyta told me that he had a huge learning curve, since he knew absolutely nothing about stones or silverwork before he began making the jewelry.  It’s hard, though, to think of Abeyta as a novice, since he is only in his mid-40s and has already had such an illustrious career.  The artist consulted top designers Cody Sanderson and Michael Roanhorse to give pointers on practicality of design, to learn about dealing with stones and the techical side of silversmithing.  The collection, which includes belt buckles, cuffs and more, is sand cast. Attendees at Abeyta’s opening at Blue Rain Gallery on August 20 will be treated to pieces that are eye-catching and incorporate traditional Navajo design elements and elements from his painted works.  Don’t worry if you can’t stop by Blue Rain Gallery next week to see the collection, because Uncle Paulie’s World has a sneak peek as part of my “The Road to Indian Market 2010” series. Check out Tony Abeyta’s interview HERE: