5 Tips to Go from Spectator to Collector at the 2012 SWAIA Indian Market

Okay…you’ve heard it before–original art can be affordable!  It’s true, and nowhere is it more true than at SWAIA Indian Market.  Visitors to New Mexico will have the opportunity to find that out for themselves as the “City Different” gears up for the 2012 SWAIA Indian Market, which takes place on the historic Santa Fe Plaza August 18 and 19.

I have always thought of Indian Market as two markets. Obviously, visitors to Santa Fe will find the usual array of finely made Pueblo pottery, Diné (Navajo), Hopi and Zuni jewelry from the Southwestern region of the United States.  What many may not know is that SWAIA Indian Market, now in its 91st year, offers spectators the opportunity to see work by over 1000 juried Native American artists from around the country as well as Canada.  Indian Market gives them a lesson in the diversity of indigenous cultures and art forms from all over North America. From basketry, to beadwork, to jewelry, clothing, painting and sculpture, Indian Market offers the average person exposure to all the colors, textures and artistic processes that are inherent to many groups they may never have heard about.  SWAIA Indian Market is a wonderful teaching moment for adults and children alike because it’s like taking a vacation to a whole bunch of regions in one place. 

So, you say that the economy is tough and spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on art just isn’t in the budget? Don’t let that keep you from enjoying and appreciating the beauty of all the art around you.  There is so much to see and learn.  After taking it all in, you might just decide to bring a little piece of Santa Fe and Indian Market home with you! Regardless of whether you are a spectator or collector, I have all the information to make this year’s visit to SWAIA Indian Market memorable.
Tips for “Going from Spectator to Collector” at the 2012 SWAIA Indian Market:
  1. Support Native American art in any way you can!  It doesn’t matter if you’re buying or not. Go because it’s fun and FREE! There are fashion shows, dancing, exhibits, food and more.  There’s lots to see, but don’t be overwhelmed.  You have two full days to take it all in.
  2. Determine your budget and stick to it!   SWAIA Indian Market offers exposure to the work of over 1000 artists.  You don’t have to spend a lot to buy a piece of original art.  Many artists offer smaller pieces that cost under $100. In most cases, you can find your Indian Market memento for $10 to $50.  The key is to arrive early to find the best selection (and parking!). I like to arrive before 7 a.m. just as artists are settng up their booths to really get an idea of what to add to my “want” list.
  3. Plan for the future! It’s been said that in this tough economy, original fine art is providing better returns on investments than investing in the stock market. In most cases, fine art holds its value and may continue to appreciate.  Even if you are not in the market to buy pieces from established artists, you can always look for emerging artists, whose work typically sells for less. Since a great deal of Native American art is generational, many artists have children or grandchildren who are potters and painters “in training” and are the stars of tomorrow.  You can invest in them now and grow with the artist as he or she gets better and better.  This is a great way to build a valuable collection.  Most importantly, buy what you like. Names are great, but at the end of the day, you have to live with the art on a daily basis.
  4. Politely ask if you may handle the art and feel free to ask questions!  While larger objects make this practice difficult, most artists encourage you to handle the art because they know if you hold it and love it, you’ll probably buy it.  They are also very interested in sharing a part of their traditions and cultures with you. Shy away from questions about religious practices. This is your chance of a lifetime to connect with someone different from you, find common ground and learn a whole bunch in the process.
  5. Instill an appreciation of art early in your child!  Introduce your child to the concept of collecting art at Indian Market.   There is something for every member of the family at Indian Market.  Give your child a spending allowance of $10 and let them explore.  Chances are if they find something they love this year, they will want to come back year after year to add pieces to their collection.
Again, SWAIA Indian Market offers something for every budget.  Here is my list of great finds for 2012:

Calm Blue Morning 6″ x 6″ original acrylic  on canvas
by Marla Allison,  Laguna Pueblo ($100)

Very few of the top painters at Indian Market offer smaller pieces for newer collectors, but Marla Allison is all about accessibility to good work.    Marla is a highly sought after artist with works in the permanent collection at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and in top galleries across the Southwest.  Much of her work celebrates her Laguna/Hopi heritage and the nature found in Paguate Village where she lives. Take home this rarer small piece entitled Calm Blue Morning, which features a blue bird and Marla’s new, colorful style. For more information visit www.marlaallison.com(SWAIA Indian Market Booth # 708 LIN-P)


Carol Emarthle-Douglas coiled waxed linen “Lightning Design” lidded basket
(4″ high X 4″ wide–Traditional coiled technique, one rod hemp twine core, wrapped with waxed linen thread, embellished with abalone shell bead on lid) ($450)

Colied waxed linen miniature “Women’s Traditional” Basket
(1-3/8″ high X 1-3/8″ wide–1 millimeter round reed wrapped with natural
and dyed raffia. Embellished with silver size 13 cut beads) ($350)

Northern Arapaho/Seminole basket weaver Carol Emarthle-Douglas is an artist unto her own.  Her diverse knowledge of varied styles is as impressive as her precision. Being recognized for her precision is actually what motivates her to make basketry.  She is also credited with leading the rally to secure contemporary basketry its own category at SWAIA Indian Market, elevating it from craft to fine art.  While Carol was raised in Oklahoma, she didn’t learn basketry until well into her adult years.  A basketry class in Seattle, where she currently lives and works, solidified her passion for basket weaving.   Many Native weavers work within only one weaving tradition.  Since Carol didn’t grow up restricted by one style, she learned how to weave in the forms of many traditions, including the Skokomish and Haida of the Pacific Northwest and the Pomo of California.  Her work is made by utilizing the coiling method, a technique employed by many indigenous groups including the Northern Arapaho and Seminole people.  Carol creates “traditional-contemporary” baskets in many sizes incorporating contemporary materials such as color waxed linen with traditional weaving methods.  These are just two examples of the work you will see at her SWAIA Indian Market booth #516-SF.  Contact Carol directly via Facebook or at cemarthle (at) comcast (dot) net.
“Southeast Swirl” pen and ink by MaryBeth Nelson of the Cherokee Nation
(5″ x 8″ image matted in 11″ x 14″ frame) ($75)
MaryBeth Nelson has been painting for the last 13 years, but 2012 marks her very first SWAIA Indian Market.   A Cherokee artist with a strong following in Oklahoma, MaryBeth is essentially an “emerging” artist in the Santa Fe Native American art scene.  Her career is gaining momentum, though, and her work was most recently included in a Native American art exhibition in Paris, France. SWAIA Indian Market provides the opportunity for collectors to purchase  her larger and smaller works, including this “Southeast Swirl” design pen and ink piece. It comes matted and framed for easy hanging.  The designs pay homage to the Southeast Mound Builder culture through the use of sun circles, references to the four directions, as well as the use of the eye representing a door to the afterlife. For more information visit MaryBeth’s art site HERE or email her at moonhawkart (at) gmail (dot) com. (SWAIA Indian Market Booth # 409 WA-E)


Charlene Holy Bear Chevron Design micro-seed beaded earrings ($225)

A resident of Nevada, Charlene Holy Bear is an award-winning beadwork artist and doll maker known for her exquisite handmade, lifelike depictions of Lakota Sioux jingle dancers.  Her jingle dancer dolls with cellulose clay heads and handsewn and handbeaded clothing, juxtapose traditional and contemporary materials creating a unique “approach to Plains style traditional doll making.”  These pieces can take nearly two years to complete, and while they can be exhausting to create, the end result is stunning, museum-quality work.  This year, Charlene will feature smaller jingle dancer dolls at the 2012 SWAIA Indian Market, but she has also been working on some wearable art, translating designs from her doll work for pieces for actual people.   At Indian Market you will find these stunning handbeaded micro-seed Chevron design earrings.  Visit www.charleneholybear.com for more information.  (SWAIA Indian Market Booth #408 WA-E)

Stainless steel and stingray cuff by Pat Pruitt of Laguna Pueblo ($450)
Pat Pruitt of Laguna Pueblo has single-handedly changed the judging criteria of jewelry on the Native American art market circuit.   It wasn’t that long ago that the same collectors who now scramble to lay their claim to his pieces, once misunderstood his work fashioned from unlikely metals such as stainless steel and titanium. He also utilizes a computer and machinery to create them. That said, each piece, is completely hand-finished in the traditional way and embellished with a variety of natural and traditional materials.  His one-of-a-kind pieces, such as this gorgeous stainless steel cuff inlaid with stingray, have made discriminating collectors sit up and take notice.  For more information visit www.patpruitt.com. (SWAIA Indian Market Booth # 708 LIN-P)


Black stone polished pot with turtle and fish motif
by Glendora Fragua of Jemez Pueblo
(Approximately 3″ high by 2″ wide) ($250)

Glendora Fragua of Jemez Pueblo is no stranger to traditional Jemez pottery making.  As a matter of fact, she comes from a prominent pottery making family.  She even learned early on how to handcoil, paint and stone polish a pot from her mother, Juanita Fragua.  Later on, Glendora ventured to California to study fashion design.  Willing to push  the envelope and make Jemez Pueblo pottery her own, Glendora returned and moved towards the style we see today, which incorporates delicate naturalistic themes such as birds, insects and turtles as can be seen in this black stone polished and etched pot with turtle and fish designs.  The etching is known as sgraffito. This smaller piece measuring 3″ by 2″ is found at the low end  of the price range for her work.  Every year, Glendora is sure to offer a wide array of pots with varied prices.  For more information, visit Glendora’s Facebook page here or her SWAIA Indian Market Booth #652 PLZ.

I hope you find something here that you like.  Attend 2012 SWAIA Indian Market. Buy original art. See you there!

© 2012 All rights reserved (Paul Niemi and Uncle Paulie’s World)
(*Paul Niemi is a compensated spokesperson for all of the products and services contained herein)