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Susan's Blog

Free Ukrainian Easter Egg Demonstration 2016

 

Easter Demonstration

Gorgeous, colorful Ukrainian Easter Eggs are called Pysanky in Ukrainian. Susan Summers first witnessed pysanky being made at the annual free demonstrations sponsored by Susan's Easter Shop during Lent. The technique of making pysanky is ancient, going back two thousand years in the Ukraine. It involves fresh, whole eggs, a cake of pure beeswax, a lit candle or heat source to melt the beeswax, handled tools called kistky, and jars of brilliant dyes.

The first time Susan touched a kistka, she knew she was destined to make pysanky. After twenty-five years of practice, Susan is at an expert level very few reach. She makes traditional Ukrainian designs, and she also used southwest designs, such as this Navajo Yei design on a goose egg, strung to hang with selected beads. She puts eight to ten hours of expert work on each egg.

Navajo Yei Egg

Come and see Susan Summers and a few other artist actively working on fine pysanky at this year's free demonstration. It will be Saturday, February 27 from 1:00 to 4:00 PM at the Hotel St. Frances on Don Gaspar in downtown Santa Fe. That historic hotel is at the corner of Galisteo and Water, a block south of San Fancisco Street. 

Melissa Lewis will show a special traditional batik egg decorating technique we call the "drop pull" method. She learned it as a child from her father, with a kistka and melted beeswax in the lid from a jar of peanut butter. Elizabeth Mesh will show very contemporary styles of pysanky. If we are lucky, we'll have John Baldwin demonstrate too. He has created an Audrey Hepborne egg, which is amazing to see.

 I hope to see you on Saturday, February 27 at the Hotel Saint Francis in Santa Fe. Free is good. Pysanky are great!

bug egg pysanka

Susan Summers

 

Italian Glass Ornaments

                     

Italian Glass Santa Treetop

Dear Friends and Customers of Susan’s Christmas Shop,

Italian glass ornaments are an acquired taste, but they have their devoted fans.  I’m one of them.  Italian glass always seems to show up especially well on a Christmas tree.  They are completely hand-made, but without using molds.  You may already know that molds are the tradition in glass Christmas ornaments made in Germany and Poland.  In Italy, the molten glass is controlled with paddles by expert artisans.

elfItalian glass angel bell

They often have non-glass details glued onto the surface, which gives them a distinctive Italian style, a style that stands out on a tree.  That style can be nursery rhymes, Santas, snowmen, angels, skiers and skaters or frame a tiny nativity.  I have just received a nice selection of Italian glass ornaments and they are now on my website for the very first time. 

The clear angel bell (above right) is just like one given to me in the 1960s.  I just love mine and I’m delighted that this style is still being made.  There is a tiny glass clapper under the skirt.  She looks like a younger, girlish angel to me, singing Christmas carols.

Italian Angel with Music

Italian glass nativity

The larger Italian glass angel ornament is more elegant with her flowing robes and her halo and her gold wings.  She holds her heavenly music in her hands.

The nativity ornament is featured on page 14 of my new book, Nativities of the World. 

Cover of book 

Here are ornaments that were inspired by a nursery rhyme about the cat and the fiddle and the famous Robin Hood.

Italian glass cat and fiddleItalian Robin

One of the most famous Italian glass styles is the Santa.  He can be a treetop (see at top) or a jolly full figure or sitting on a sled behind a snowman.

Italian glass snowman and SantaItalian glass Santa

Since these special glass ornaments are so labor-intensive to make, they tend to be more expensive than many glass ornaments, but they make distinctive gifts.  The glued-on details protect the ornaments from breaking easily.

Italian glass girl skier

Perhaps you will also become a fan of these delightful Italian glass ornaments that have been made since the 1950s.  I hope so.  Please check out the new Italian glass on my website, and if you are in Santa Fe, stop by my shop to see them in person.  I look forward to seeing you.

Your friend in Santa Fe,

Susan Weber of Susan’s Christmas Shop

 

Nativities

                 Louises Angel for blog

Dear Customers and Friends,

 An advance copy of my book about international nativities has arrived at my shop.  It is exciting to hold in my own hands the fruits of my labor on a topic I love.

Nativities of the World for June  Blog

As many of you know, the cover photo for the book was a topic for discussion.  Some of you voted on your preference for the cover photo.  Last November, I attended the International Congress of Nativity Collectors in Innsbruck, Austria to publicize my yet unpublished book, assuming the book would have a German nativity on the cover.

International Nativities for June Blog

I do love the German nativity, and in fact I have been giving pieces of this nativity each year to my two grandsons for many years.  However, the South African one was chosen for the front of the book’s jacket.  As a consolation to me, the designer used a new photo of the German nativity on the back of the jacket of the book.  This new photo shows some sweet animals instead of the colorful wise men.  The original photo with the wise men is still inside the book.

Back jacket photo

My publisher also changed the title of my book, so that the word Nativities would be the first word in the title.  Fair enough.  Then the number of pages in the book was changed from 96 pages to 160 pages.  This was because the 96 nativities in the book would be too crowded if they were squeezed into 96 pages.  Fair enough, but consequently the price had to increase.  The new price is $25.00.  Fair enough. 

Customers who have seen the advance copy in the shop are signing up to be notified when the book is available, and one customer has already paid for four copies in advance.  Another customer has asked for a box of ten Christmas cards, each card being a different photo from my book.  We have been asking customers and friends to tell us their favorite photos.  Here are some of the favorites so far.  If I manage to produce the Christmas cards, I will inform you in a future blog or newsletter.

Lead Nativity for June Blog

David Villafañas nativity for June Blog

Afro-Pacifica Nativity for June Blog

Large Peruvian Pottery for June Blog

Navajo Nativity - Benally

We do have the Navajo Nativity in the shop right now, just arrived from Sheep Springs, New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation.

Once in a while, I get a very special nativity from Louise Ortega, the daughter of the late Ben Ortega.  This one (pictured below) is a bit more expensive than some (It is $220) because it is exceptional in the wood selected and the beauty of the design and the lovely angel that sits above the manger.  It is likely to sell quickly, so if you want it, call the shop right away.  We are open on Sunday till 6:00 PM.

Louises Nativity for blog

I am told that it is now possible to pre-order my new book on the website.

Happy Spring!

Susan Weber

Nativities of the World Book Review

Lilac-1

Susan’s May Newsletter 2013

Dear Customers and Friends of Susan’s Christmas Shop,

Many of you are familiar with the books by Tomie de Paola.  I sell his book, The Night of Las Posadas in my shop and on this website, as well as Christmas Remembered, which is for adults and describes some of his favorite Christmases.  You learn a lot about Tomie when you read this book.

Las PosadasChristmas Remembered

At my request, Tome just wrote a review of my new book, Nativities of the World.  I’m delighted with what he wrote.  Here it is.

"I love this book!!!

Susan Topp Weber has done it again! She has channeled her lifelong love of nativities into a beautiful book, which is not only informative and entertaining, but is also beautiful and full of reverence.

Nativities of the World is a "must-have" for anyone who is interested in and in love with this art form, which celebrates the birth of Jesus.

The only thing this book is missing is the nativity I made out of foil, adhesive tape, bits of cloth, yarn, and watercolors many years ago when I was an adolescent. If only I could have found it, I'm sure Susan would have loved to include it.

I love this book!"

Tomie de Paola, artist / author of books for children

 To thank Tomie, I sent him a copy of a letter I wrote after attending a pueblo feast day.  In hopes that you might enjoy it too, I am sending you a copy as well.  The Rio Grande pueblos were assigned patron saints by the Spanish.  When that saint’s day comes around, that pueblo has a feast day.  This on is about the feast day at San Felipe Pueblo.

Dear Tomie,                                                                                                          May, 1, 2013

You have pleased me very much with your review of my new book, Nativities of the World.  Thank you again.  I am grateful.

Today was the feast day of San Felipe Pueblo.  It is a bit south of Santo Domingo Pueblo, and it is right on the Rio Grande River, below a flat topped mesa where prehistoric ruins are protected from outsiders.  I went with a friend from Santa Fe who likes to go to feast days with me.  Carlton Gallegos asked if we were going to San Felipe and said he would look for us there.  He’s from Santa Ana Pueblo, but pueblo Indians like to go to other pueblo’s feast days.  They are a good way to maintain friendships.

San Felipe Pueblo

(On Easter Sunday, my friend and I and another young employee drove an hour to be at Santa Ana Pueblo in time for the 8:00 AM mass at the newly restored ancient adobe church.  This was Carlton’s suggestion.  Since the land around this historic church is not good for farming, the people of Santa Ana Pueblo bought better land closer to the Rio Grande and choose live there.  The road to the old village now has a gate, which is usually locked, so you can only get into the village on special days like feast days and Easter and Christmas.  Even on those special days, the church is locked most of the time.  So to see the inside of the restored church, we attended the mass.  We are so glad we did.  It was a treat to stand for an hour on the female side of the nave and savor the sight of the old reredos lit by the clerestory window.  There are several colonial oil paintings, now cleaned and restored, and several crosses made by Carlton.  I sell these crosses in my shop.  Carlton fed us pueblo feast day food at his house afterwards.)

Today we drove across the bridge that spans the Rio Grande at San Felipe, and saw a place to park close to the bridge.  The bridge is paved, but once you cross it all roads are dirt.  We walked the dusty road of the pueblo till we came to the lane that leads to the church.  There were some booths set up already around the perimeter of the open space in front of the churchyard for the feast day market, but some could not set up until the first corn dance had been danced in front of the church.  The churchyard has a low adobe wall in front of it.  We stood close to this wall and watched the dance from slightly elevated land about ten feet from the dancers.  Hundreds of dancers were there in double lines, to dance in the open space by the church before moving to the pueblo’s main plaza. In a corn dance, the first dancer is a man holding a young evergreen tree in his hand, a rattle in the other, followed by a woman dressed in a black manta, belted with a hand woven belt often color coordinated to her cotton underdress, and a turquoise colored wooden tablita over her head, holding evergreen boughs in each hand and dancing in bare feet, followed by a younger boy in costume, followed by a younger girl in costume. All the females danced barefooted. 

Tablita487a90

The men wore white embroidered kilts, a full fox pelt attached to the rear of their belt, fresh evergreen boughs stuck into their wide leather armbands painted turquoise, and white deerskin moccasins with skunk wraps around their ankles.  Both men and women wear lots of jewelry. The chorus of men and boys sang to the beat on one large Cochiti drum.  The man holding the tall pole with the tall, narrow flag ornamented with a cornstalk design growing out of a basket with two parrots in it.  He would shake this tall flag over the dancers from time to time as a blessing.  At the top of this very long pole is a tuft of long, precious, exotic feathers, usually Macaw, usually orange, but on this pole they were brilliant blue on one side and yellow on the other.  When the wind picked up (it happens in the spring) the feathers themselves seemed to be dancing.  Gorgeous.

But the treat was seeing the horse dancers.  There were two of them, and they danced as if they were both the horse and the rider.  Their shirtsleeves were not stitched from the armpit to the wrist, but open in a style I think of as almost medieval.  Their faces were masked with a diagonally folded black scarf.  The “horses” were paneled in embroidered dancer’s kilts and concho belts were pinned over the back of the horses.  The riders also carried a braided leather whip in one hand.  The sight of men riding horses centuries ago clearly made quite an impression on the pueblos, because they are featured from time to time in certain dances at certain pueblos.  Often they are associated with a snare drummer, the kind of drum the Spanish had in colonial times.  Often they disappear after the first dance, so it is an incentive to come early.

We loved our close up view of the dance.  We noticed a street sign across the dance area, just like street signs in any modern community.  There in the dirt close to the riverbank, was the intersection of Yucca and Rainwater.  Then a snare drum sounded a drum roll and summoned the horse dancers to the front of the church, and they went into the church, perhaps to pay reverence to the colonial statue of San Felipe just inside the church doors.  We saw him ourselves after the dancers went to the plaza to dance the rest of their prayer in that setting.  He was on his portable bier for the day, with a basket on the floor in front of him.  I added a dollar to that basket.  I always like to see San Felipe because I enjoy his halo, a flat round piece of metal located several inches over his head and attached by one thick metal rod from the center of the halo to the center of his skull.  Inside the church, the pulpit looks like a Cochiti drum and I saw the door to the side room where Gustav Baumann first caught a glimpse of the “sleeping princess” he later met and married.

After we sat on a low bench in the church for a while, mentally comparing this colonial church with the one we had seen at Santa Ana at Easter, we toured the market booths that are a favorite distraction on days like this.  I bought the piñon nuts for you at one of the booths.  (Here’s a joke for you, too.  You put two piñon nuts in one hand, and three piñon nuts in the other hand.  You stretch both hands to someone and say, “What’s the difference?”  The correct answer is “It’s a difference of a piñon.) 

The booths at pueblo feast days sell anything from dill pickels, baseball caps, cheap toys for kids, snow cones, hamburgers, Mexican fruit drinks ladled from huge glass barrels, a chance to throw a basketball in hopes of winning a prize, animal pelts and articles useful for dance costumes, pueblo baskets, pueblo pottery and  pueblo jewelry, especially from Santo Domingo Pueblo.  One booth was selling CD’s of Peruvian music, and a talented Andean musician played lovely music for us on a rather large Andean pipe made of reeds, almost a foot long on one end and a few inches on the other, and perhaps fifteen notes inbetween.  Peruvian musicians are everywhere  they can go in the world to sell their music.  Pueblo feast day markets these days also feature merchants from Otovalo, Ecuador and Guatemala, so they are a bit like the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, where my book will be launched this July.

Our Santa Ana friend, Carlton, found us as we paused by a booth .  He had told us he would find us, and so he did.  He invited us to eat at a friend’s house, where his wife Carmela was cooking.  We walked to that house, past the intersections of Pumpkin and Rainwater and then Turquoise and Rainwater.  We saw Carmela, who is from Acoma.  It seems they were not yet serving at that house, so Susan and I went to my friend’s house on the plaza.  I had brought an anniversery gift for Sarah Candelaria.  Her wedding anniversery is in ten days.  I asked her to wait till her anniversary to open it, and also to wait till her husband was with her.  The gift was a wind-up toy like a San Francisco cable car.  She and her husband met on a streetcar in San Francisco.  She was going to college there and he was working there, and they both used the same streetcar every day.  They were from different pueblos and didn’t speak the same language, but when he heard her speaking Towa to her friend, he knew it was a pueblo language.  Before that, he had seen her on the streetcar every day, but thought she was from the Phillipines.  They have now been married forty-four years.

Sara invited us to eat.  Pueblo feast day food usually include red chile, green chile, bone stew, beans, potato salad,  and oven bread.  Photography is not permitted at San Felipe, but here is a recent photo I took (with permission) at a wedding feast I recently enjoyed at Jemez Pueblo.

feast day food

Costumed dancers on their lunch break began to fill Sara’s house.  We gve up our places at the feast table and went upstairs for an even better view of the corn dance.  Sarah’s feast day house on the south side of the plaza has a second floor balcony all across the width of the house.  It’s like the finest box seat at an opera.  The level of the square plaza is several feet lower that the surrounding sides, almost as if the San Felipe dancers had danced it down.  It is like an ampitheater.  We could see the temporary shrine on the other side of the plaza.  The shrine had a deer trophy at each front corner, an untrimmed evergreen tree at each side, and three crosses at the top of the shrine.  The two story building for the important council members is next door, and this place has even more animal trophies on display that day, including two buffalo trophies and the biggest elk trophy I’ve ever seen.  When it was time for the lunch break of both of the two dance groups, public food was spread out on the ground in front of the shrine for anyone to eat.  Since we had friends who gladly fed us, we stayed in our “box seat”, enjoying our elevated view.

Eventually, Susan and I decided it was time to return to Santa Fe, but we looked at a few more booths on our way to the car.  A painted wooden napkin holder from ZIa Pueblo caught my eye and I bought it.  Here it is with its load of paper napkins.  That’s a Zia bird design painted on it.  The artist is a neighbor of a friend of mine at Zia Pueblo.  I had admired these napkin holders before, but wanted one with a Zia bird.  I decided that this was the bird I was waiting for.  This napkin holder and this letter will be my reminders of feast day at San Felipe Pueblo in 2013.  I often write about these days at the pueblos for my own enjoyment, and to send to special friends. 

Zia

We drove home to Santa Fe full of pueblo food and pleasant memories, and my wooden napkin holder is already in use in my little house.

I hope you have enjoyed my feast day story.

Your grateful friend in Santa Fe,

Susan Weber

 

 

 

The Wedding of the Year at Jemez Pueblo

Daffodils3a54ed

Dear Customers and Friends,

Pueblo weddings can be big occasions. The one I attended last Saturday at Jemez Pueblo was the wedding of the year. At Jemez, photography is usually not allowed, but cameras were everywhere on Saturday, and mine was one of them. I will share with you a glimpse into the events at a fine pueblo wedding after the Catholic wedding mass in a beautiful small church in the pueblo. This is not the main historic church of the pueblo.

My wedding gift was three Russian shawls. These are highly esteemed by pueblo women, and they are used to create the ceiling of the Christmas custom at Jemez Pueblo known as “Bethlehem”. I have enjoyed many Bethlehems over the years, so my wedding gifts were a way of giving back for all the pleasure I have enjoyed at these Christmas events. These Russian shawls are block printed with blocks more than a century old. They are of wool challis and are precious and hard to get. I carry them in my shop, and if you want one, you should call the shop and ask for photos of what we have in stock. I now have one customer on the waiting list for a small one in black, like the one I wore myself to the wedding, fastened with a Russian pin.

Shawl 1Shawl 2

After the formal wedding service, we walked a short distance to Persingula Toya’s house. Here is Persingula on the left, all dressed for her son’s wedding, standing in the room that has been “Bethlehem” twice.

Persingula

The "Bethlehem" event is described on page 96 of my book, Christmas in Santa Fe. If you want to know more about Bethlehem, this book will inform you, based on my own personal association with it.

Christmas SF Cover

 On Saturday this Bethlehem room served as a reception area for the wedding guests.  The benches are for people to use while waiting to be called to eat at the bountiful feast day table.

Wedding room

CakeStar

I sell Delia Gauchupin’s pottery ornaments in my shop and on my website.  This one (above right) she calls “A Star is Born”.

At the top of the wedding cake was a pottery scene made by Santana Seonia just for the occasion.  Santana also made sweet little pins in the shape of a wedding vase, and she gave one to me to wear that day. Santana is a creative Jemez Pueblo potter and the most popular nativity maker in my shop.  She is related to the groom’s family, so she helped with the wedding preparations.

Wedding 1Wedding 2

Santana Nativity

Santana Seonia kiva nativity (pictured above).

Next to the big room with the wedding cake is the room where the wedding feast was served.  Several pueblo ladies tend the table and announce to those seated on the benches when there is room for more people to eat.  The feasting and celebrating continue till midnight.  The kitchen was full of female cooks and female dishwashers.

Feast Day Table

I love pueblo feast day food.  Here are the classic bowls of the red chile and the green chile and a slice of oven bread, baked in the outdoor adobe ovens called hornos.

Red and Green

Red ChileIndian Pie

Outside Persingula’s kitchen were several pueblo cooks tending a wood fire, and over the fire hung an enormous pot cooking many gallons of “Bone Stew”, another pueblo food I love.  Here is what Bone Stew looked like in my bowl that day.

For dessert, I had a piece of Indian Pie.  It had a traditional prune filling, which is not too sweet.  Prune pie is easy to hold in your hands as you eat it.  Some pueblo bakers bake it in the adobe hornos after the loaves of oven bread come out, using the residual heat.

The bride and groom finally arrived after they had been to two other feasts at two other houses, the bride’s family’s house and the sponsor’s house.  Five loud rifle shots rang out, and then they ran into Persingulas’s house.  The bride’s colors were blue and white, chosen because she is a Yankees fan.  We tossed confetti and rice as they ran.

Tossing Rice

Once the bride and groom had entered Persingula’s house, it was so crowded that there was no room for me.  It was time to return to Santa Fe, more than an hour’s drive.  I’m grateful that I have so many wonderful pueblo friends.  Many of these friends make ornaments and nativities for me to sell to customers like you.  I’m also grateful that I have so many wonderful customers!
 
I hope you have enjoyed this story.
 
Susan Weber

 

 

 

Easter at Susan's Christmas Shop

Papa s Apprentice

Dear Friends and Customers,

Easter will soon be here.  This year it is March 31, rather early, unless you use the orthodox calendar, in which case it is May 5, rather late. 

The German bunnies in my shop have been busy preparing for this early Easter.

Bunny

Bunnies in a boat

I’ve just added more German bunnies items to my website in the Easter category, so be sure you see them.  Some of them are scenes set inside tiny matchboxes, a specialty of the Erzgebirge, which is the famous region of the former East Germany that makes so many delightful wooden figures.

Matchbox Bunny Picnic

I have made bunny ornaments myself, inspired by a 19th century German postcard.

Susan s Bunny

But Easter is also about decorated eggs.  The most elaborately decorated natural eggshell I know of is the Ukrainian Easter egg known as pysanka.  Susan Summers learned how to make them at my demonstrations years ago and now she is a demonstrator herself.  We just had our annual free demonstration of how to make them.  Here’s Susan Summers with her equipment.

Susan s Summers set upd37ca224af84

Susan does beautiful traditional Ukrainian designs on eggs, but she also makes pysanka with southwest designs, like this Yei from the Navajo culture.

Yei eggdf8af3

If you want a southwest pysanka by Susan Summers, ask us to email you photos.  Some of the designs are Navajo and some are Mimbres prehistoric pottery designs, but in brilliant colors.

Eggs have long been a traditional Easter gift, and in the Slavic countries, they are given with the greeting “Christ is risen”.  The response is “He is risen indeed”.

Easter week is special in northern New Mexico because the historic Santuario de Chimayo is a famous destination for pilgrims. They walk for miles to reach it.  Good Friday is the biggest day for pilgrims, but some choose to walk a day or two before that.  Thousands will be there at this very special church on the High Road to Taos.  It is quite the destination on Good Friday.

Santuario de Chimayocd3f6f

As for my own Easter Sunday plans, I will take two employees to an early mass at the newly restored historic adobe church at Santa Ana Pueblo, west of Bernalillo.  The outside is now plastered in traditional mud, with bits of straw that gleam in the sunlight.  Its missing tower has been rebuilt, copying an early photo of the ancient church.  This church is locked most of the time, so the only way to see the inside is to attend the Easter mass.  Then we will watch a Corn Dance and feast at Carlton Gallegos’ house.  His wife, Carmela, is a good cook, and there will be red chile and oven bread. 

Photography is not permitted at this pueblo, but here is a photo of one of the crosses Carlton makes using wheat straw applied to wood.  This is a Spanish Colonial technique, sometimes called “poor man’s gold” in New Mexico.  When there were only two very old people at Santa Ana who knew how to do this, Carlton taught himself so the craft would not be lost.

Carlton s cross

I wish you a Happy Easter, wherever you are!

Sincerely,

Susan Weber in Santa Fe

Susan’s Blog about Pysanka, Ukrainian Easter Eggs

This time of year we look forward to Easter by having a free demonstration of the ancient art of Pysanka, Ukrainian Easter Eggs.  This year it will be on Saturday, March 9 2013, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Hotel St. Francis on Don Gaspar in Santa Fe.  That is at the intersection of Don Gaspar and Water Street, close to Doodlet’s and Pasqual’s.

Demo

The word pysanka means “to write,” and the writing is done with a simple tool called a kistka and a cake of pure beeswax.

Traditional Kisky four

Pure Beeswax

To melt the wax, the kistka is held in the flame of a candle before being dipped into the wax.  The wax flows onto the fresh whole uncooked egg like ink from a pen.  The candle flame will scorch the wooden handle, but this simple tool still works.  A more modern kistka is the Delrin type, which will not scorch in the flame. 

Delrin Kistky three

The egg receives a series of dye baths of brilliant colors, dyes made just for pysanky.

Pysanka Dyes

Some people like to purchase a kit, which has kistky, wax and dyes.

Pysanka Kit

The process can take a long time, but it is fun to watch.  The final step is to remove the wax lines and reveal all the lovely colors that are beneath.

Basket of pysanky

Some people like to blow the finished pysanka.  That is common these days, so you don’t have to worry about accidents and smells of aging eggs.

Egg Blower

Traditional Ukrainian designs are always in style, but Susan Summers, who will be demonstrating for us, likes to do southwest designs on eggs.  These are very popular.

southwest egg

I hope you will join us on March 9, 2013.

Susan Weber

Susan's January Blog

I send New Year’s greetings to customers and friends of Susan’s Christmas Shop in Santa Fe.  My own Christmas always includes a visit to the pueblos of New Mexico, where lovely dances occur from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, January 6.  In New Mexico, we often call January 6 “Kings’ Day”.  This Kings’ Day, I was at Jemez Pueblo to watch their spectacular version of the Buffalo Dance.  There were two magnificent Buffalo Dancers and one beautiful and dignified Buffalo Maiden.  These are the stars of the dance, and they must be young and in fine physical condition to perform for hours in the plaza.  The Jemez choreography of the Buffalo Dance includes very fast steps, when the knees of the male dancers are brought waist high over and over very quickly.  In addition to these exquisite dancers, there are dozens of other animal dancers, such as deer, elk, mountain sheep and antelope.  The many birds dancers we enjoyed watching at these dances are no more to be seen, because the Federal government is insisting that Jemez Pueblo account for the origin of very little feather in the costumes, and it is too much of a hassle to comply.  What a pity.  Still, the Jemez Buffalo Dance is a joy to see, and if you have never seen it, you can always see it on Christmas Day and the day after, as well as on Kings’ Day.  Do not take a camera!  Photography is not allowed at Jemez Pueblo, except inside and with permission.

I visited the pueblo homes of several friends, and in one of these houses I met Robert Toledo, who had made a “Bethlehem” for my shop.  Bethlehem at Jemez is a very special custom.  It has been done for many years, and it usually lasts from after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve till Kings’ Day.  One house becomes Bethlehem, and the married couple of this house become Mary and Joseph and take care of the wooden Baby Jesus from the church.  The Baby lies on a corner altar in the main room.  Mary and Joseph sit beside the altar, dressed in their best clothes and wearing all their best jewelry.  The house is all decorated to become Bethlehem.  The furniture is removed and benches are put around the walls for spectators to sit on while they wait to be invited to the feast day table.  The ceiling of Bethlehem is covered with the flowered wool challis shawls from Russia, with the fringe hanging down and tinsel added to the fringe.  The walls are covered with the finest blankets, costuming, animal trophies and other splendid things to show off.  In 1991, my very good friends, Pat and Persingula Toya were Mary and Joseph.  Here is a photo of them taken by my friend, Lynne Andrews.

Pat and Persingula

Robert Toledo’s Bethlehem is now for sale in my shop.  It is made of native clay and set on a wooden base.  The house was made of individually made “adobe” bricks, and built like a pueblo house with a corner fireplace and a chimney on the roof.  The roof beams called vigas were used to support the roof.  You can see the corner altar with the Baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph in their chairs beside the altar.  Benches around the walls hold spectators.  A couple of boys are sprawled on the floor, one with a drum.  This boy has a miniature drumstick.

Bethlehem

An adult drummer holds a large drum on his wrist, as he beats the drum and sings the song for the Rainbow Dancers, who dance in honor of the Baby Jesus.

Bethlehem with drummer

Robert included many wonderful details in this miniature Bethlehem.  He was born and raised in Jemez Pueblo, but now lives and works close to Los Angeles.  He regularly comes back to the village for special day, and I saw him there on November 12, the big Jemez Feast Day (the smaller on is August 2).  I ordered the Bethlehem from him at that time.  I have one I bought from him many years ago.  I have his hand-written story about Bethlehem, a copy of which will go to the lucky person who purchases this special nativity.

My shop is beginning to look like a Valentine shop.  One special item, which is brand new to the website, is the Valentine candles by Elke Stuart.  Her candles are always popular in my shop.  Elke decorates each one by hand.  Valentine candles make a sweet gift.

Valentine Candles

If you are thinking of Valentines, don’t forget the German wooden hearts.  We actually sell these year round now, because they are so well loved.

German Wooden Hearts

Again, I wish you a Happy New Year, and my New Year’s resolution is to write you new letters on my website as a “blog”.  I hope you enjoy them.

More soon!

Susan Topp Weber

The Art of Making Glass Ornaments

Mouth blown, hand painted Glass Christmas ornaments have been a specialty at Susan's Christmas Shop for 35 years, but for those who do not know how they are made, here is a description. I hope it will add to the pleasure you have in choosing them and in using them each year on your Christmas tree. The first simple glass Christmas ornaments were made in cottages in Lauscha, which is located in eastern Germany. Now the blowing is done in modern factories. Here is a photo I took when I was visiting a German glass blowing factory, IngeGlas. In my opinion, it is the premier German glass ornament business, and both sides of the family have been in the glass business since the 1500's.

Glass BlowerThe glass this glass blower is blowing is clear. While the glass is molten, he uses a foot pedal to close over the soft glass bubble. When it is removed from the flame, the glass cools quickly, but it is completely clear at this point.

New Cristo Rey Glass Ornament

Custom glass is done in Poland for Susan's Christmas Shop. This year we have two new glass ornament designs that can represent New Mexico on your Christmas tree. The designs are first sculpted in clay. Then a mold is made for the glass blower to use.

Cristo-Rey-in-Santa-FeThis one is Cristo Rey on upper Canyon Road in Santa Fe. It is the largest adobe structure in the United States. It was built in 1939 to hold the historic stone reredos from the Military Chapel on the plaza in the colonial days.

New Acoma Pueblo Church Glass Ornament

Acoma-Pueblo-ChurchThe other new custom glass that is new this year is the Acoma Pueblo Church Glass Ornament. This is also made in Poland using the steps I have described in the first blog post. I hope you will appreciate glass ornaments even more now that you know about all the work that goes into making them.

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