This nativity by Louise Alvarez is made of driftwood she finds along the shores of lakes. Louise is the youngest child in the large family of the late Ben Ortega of Tesuque. Ben was famous for his unpainted wooden figures of Saint Francis. Louise was married to David Alvarez, another talented folk artist, and David and Louise made many pieces together.
Since David’s death in 2010, Louise has continued to create driftwood angels and nativities, and she now signs her work with her famous maiden name, Louise Ortega. The nativity above is her masterpiece. It includes a shepherd with his flock of sheep, the three wise men, and the nativity, with two hovering angels above. The figures are all pegged into the base.
Priscilla Jim lives in Acomita, one of the villages below the ancient pueblo of Acoma, an hour’s drive west of Albuquerque. She paints traditional Acoma pottery designs onto white slip-cast bells and cats. She uses the traditional black paint for Acoma pots, made from a native plant called Rocky Mountain beeweed. This plant is boiled down to make the black paint. Sometimes the paint is poured into a small corn husk basin to cool. If it cools in the pot it is though to remove. The corn husk acts as a disposable palette for the paint.
Priscilla’s bells and cats have been among the most popular ornaments at Susan’s Christmas Shop since the 1980s. Priscilla delivers her work to my house before 8:00 a.m., after a two-hour drive from Acomita. Then we talk like old friends. I recently learned that her late grandmother, Frances Torivio, made a large Acoma pot in my collection. Frances Torivio is considered a matriarch of Acoma pottery. Perhaps Priscilla inherited her grandmother’s painting skills.
Santa Claus is well known and well loved by children and the young at heart. We now have a new category on our website called the Santa Collection. Check it for all kinds of unusual Santas. Some are German, some are southwest, some are wooden, some are hand woven, some are painted pewter, and some are pueblo pottery.
Our beaded Santas can be worn as jewelry. Santa Chiles can hang on your tree. Susan’s daughter, Melissa, made both the jewelry and the chiles.
Santa collectors now have a place to search for something new for Christmas!
Maxine Toya is the talented daughter of Marie Romero. She began by helping her family with pottery chores. This is a familiar pattern among Pueblo families. She made her own pottery beginning in 1974. Maxine’s donkey in this nativity has a blanket painted with a fringe similar to the one made by her mother, Marie. Like her mother, Maxine is a prize-winning potter at Indian Market in Santa Fe. She sometimes combines her figures into groups. Her standing figures all have closed eyes. The carefully painted detail distinguishes this nativity, as well as the sweet little Pueblo drummer boy with his drumstick raised in the air. The angel’s wings have a lovely feather design. This was made in 2014 for Indian Market. Maxine has sold her work at Indian Market for forty years, presumably beginning in her own mother’s booth.
Maxine recently brought us two angels in this style to sell separately. They have a bit of shine to their robes because the clay slip on their robes has mica in it. Their wings are beautifully painted with pueblo designs. Call us if you wish to know more: (505) 983-2127.
Easter is now on display here at the shop. It’s an egg collector’s dream. Eggs are really fun to collect, I assure you. My own collection brings me great pleasure and I hope to write a book about decorated eggs some day.
Susan’s Easter Shop offers decorated eggshells from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Canada and New Mexico. Ukrainian Easter eggs are called pysanky. Shirley Buchy is a talented maker of pysanka in Canada. Her work is the finest I have seen, but she is now retired because her eyesight is no longer good enough. I have three eggs by Shirley Buchy – featured in the picture at the top. The goose egg is $195 and each chicken egg is $75. I will never have this quality again, so here is a unique opportunity for collectors. Please call if you want one: (505) 983 2127.
There will be a Free Demonstration
of how to make pysanky on Saturday, March 10th
from 1:00 to 4:00 pm
in the Exchange Room at La Fonda.
The technique is over two thousand years old. It involves pure beeswax, a writing tool called a kistka, jars of brilliant dyes, uncooked eggs, time, skill, and patience. It’s fascinating to watch. Susan Summers will be there. She sometimes uses southwest designs on her eggs. Melissa Lewis will demonstrate the less challenging “drop pull” technique.
January is almost over. It is time to think of Valentine’s Day, a chance to show your affection to friends and family. It’s only two weeks away, so please check our Valentines for new ways to assure and reassure others of your feelings.
Happy Valentine’s Day… from Susan’s Christmas Shop!
PS: the beautiful pins in the photo are fashioned out of polymer clay and have crystals set into them. They are made by New York artist Billie Beads.
The Church of the Holy Faith on East Palace Avenue is the oldest Episcopal Church in New Mexico. It is known for its beautiful nineteenth century leaded glass windows in the sanctuary. The most gorgeous window of the church is the Good Shepherd window. Originally this window was above the altar and the church was called The Church of the Good Shepherd. Later, the church was enlarged by Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem. The window was moved to one side and church became The Church of the Holy Faith, the translation of Santa Fe in English.
This glass replica of The Church of The Holy Faith was created in Poland. A clay model was sculpted to create a mold. The mold was used to blow a glass ornament with the breath of a skilled glass blower. The resulting clear glass shape was silvered inside with a liquid silver. Artists painted the outside of the ornament. Finally, a cap was inserted. It takes almost a week to make one, every step by hand. Ten percent of the sales price will de donated to The Church of the Holy Faith in Santa Fe.
You can order your Holy Faith glass ornament at this link.
Sylvia Begaye is a talented Navajo artist from Fort Defiance, Arizona. She makes small fabric doll ornaments that represent the Navajo styles of dress, hair, and jewelry. Sometimes wooden cradleboards hold their babies. The ones with cradleboards are called “Madonna and Child“. Those with gray hair are called “Grandmothers“.
Sylvia’s faces always look like Navajo faces. Her delicate piped-on jewelry looks like the real silver and turquoise jewelry the Navajo jewelers make to sell and wear themselves. These ornaments have been sold for many years at Susan’s Christmas Shop, as well as Sylvia’s wreaths, velvet angels, and Navajo-style Santa ornaments.