Navajo Fabric Ornaments and Nativities by Sylvia Begaye

Sylvia Wreath Navajo Nativity

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 Begaye Madonna and Grandma

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.

Check all Sylvia Begaye’s works here!

Mary Ray Cate’s Southwest Advent Calendars

Native America Advent Calendar

Mary Ray Cate is a talented Santa Fe artist who creates southwest advent calendars for Susan’s Christmas Shop. Each advent calendar has a different theme, and Mary Ray paints the cover painting and the twenty-four scenes which are revealed when the doors are opened. The day to begin opening doors is December 1st. Each calendar celebrates and teaches about the culture of The Land of Enchantment, such as a New Mexico pueblo, a Spanish village on the High Road to Taos, or the Santa Fe Trail.

This year, 2017, the new calendar has a scene inside an adobe house decorated for Christmas. Grandfather is playing his guitar for the children to dance. One of the doors opens to reveal a drawing of Susan Weber’s biscochitos, the state cookie.

Rhyme Advent Calendar

Susan like to form hers by hand. Occasionally Susan has a tin of these pretty biscochitos in the shop to offer to customers. The recipe is in Susan’s first book, Christmas in Santa Fe.


To see all Mary Ray Cate’s advent calendars click here!

New Mexico State Collectors Ornament 2016-2017


This special ornament is from a series of collectible ornaments created by the New Mexico Governor’s Mansion Foundation. It features the high desert landscape of New Mexico, with a Zia symbol in the sky at the time of a sunset. Squash Blossom necklaces made of silver and turquoise are now called New Mexico’s State Necklace.


The ornament uses the pendant of this type of jewelry, not in real sterling silver and genuine turquoise stones, but imitation Rhodium plated metal and turquoise colored paint. All proceeds from the ornament sales benefit the Governor’s Mansion Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit organization of volunteers responsible for the design and preservation of the Governor’s residence.

You can find our very last ones on sale here!

Southwest Church Scale Models By Carolyn Johnson

Southwest Church Scale Models By Carolyn Johnson

Carolyn Johnson has been making detailed small models of southwest churches since 1981. These models have just become better and more detailed as the years passed. Carolyn now makes over fifty different churches and continues to make new ones from time to time. Her church models can hang as a Christmas ornament or they can sit on a shelf. Carolyn began selling her work to Susan’s Christmas Shop in 1991. There are two wooden shelves on the south adobe wall of my shop, by the front door. Each shelf has dozens of small square openings, each opening the right size to hold a church model. On the bottom of each church model is a paper with information about that church. Most of the churches are located in New Mexico, but a few are in what is now Texas. The most popular church models are the ones shown here: the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, and the Santuario de Chimayo, a beloved pilgrim’s destination on the High Road to Taos.

A typical church model is two inches tall. Find them all here!

Hot Air Balloon Festival 2017

Shop Hot Air Balloon Window

The upcoming Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta always brings lots of people to Santa Fe. The huge hot air balloons rise at dawn above Albuquerque, inspiring awe in the people on the ground. After that, many visitors drive to Santa Fe for lunch at The Shed and a visit to my shop. Already we are selling scores of glass hot air balloons.

hot air balloon galorehot air balloon galore








Customers tell us how happy are the faces of those who see the balloons. Even babies like them. Tiny Lillian was enchanted with our window. Can’t make it to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta? You can still have a gorgeous glass balloon.

The Work by Angel Bailon of Santo Domingo Pueblo

Santo Domingo is south of Santa Fe, about half way to Albuquerque on the Rio Grande. Recently, the council of Santo Domingo Pueblo announced that the official name for the pueblo is now Kewa. In practice, most people continue to call this pueblo by the name of its saint, Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is known for pottery and jewelry, especially the drilled shell beads known as heishi and mosaic on shell. This large pueblo is also famous for its spectacular dances on its long plaza with hundreds of dancers of all ages. The impressive annual feast day of Santo Domingo is August 4th.

Santo Doming Flight into Egypt by Angel Bailon (2014)
Santo Doming Flight into Egypt by Angel Bailon (2014)

Most Santo Domingo Pueblo people are usually prohibited from making pottery figures, but Angel Bailon is permitted to make them because she was not born at the pueblo. Angel was born at Jemez Pueblo. She did marry a Santo Domingo Pueblo man and moved to his village. Angel has made charming nativities for years, but her son recently suggested she make a Flight into Egypt. Here Joseph, with his wooden staff, guides the donkey carrying Mary and her baby on their way to safety in Egypt. The painted designs on the hand formed pottery figures are traditional Santo Domingo pottery designs.

Click here for more works by Angel Bailon.

Charlie Carrillo’s Retablo

Charlie Carrillo is a local santero in Santa Fe, making art in the New Mexico Spanish Colonial Style. He has been a friend of mine for many years. In northern New Mexico, the word santero is understood to mean a person who makes religious images. Charlie once told me that santero is “a made up word”. Don’t look for it in a Spanish dictionary or use it in South America. They will not know what you mean, but in Santa Fe it is a useful word because of Spanish Market on the plaza in late July.

Charlie has a PhD in anthropology. He has written several books, and he has taught most of the artists who currently show at Spanish Market. He and his family have a booth at Spanish Market, usually on the west side of the plaza, opposite the First National Bank.

Charlie Carrillo was recently in a terrible automobile accident. He was a passenger in his car on the Interstate close to Santa Fe at 9:30 in the morning. His wife, Debbie, was driving at a normal highway speed when they were hit from behind at ninety miles an hour. Both cars spun out of control. Charlie’s air bag did not deploy. He broke twenty-three bones, including his back. I learned about the accident from a customer in Michigan (thanks, Kim!) and I immediately went to the hospital to see him. Charlie was cheerful, realistic about his injuries, but confident that he would heal. He soon acquired a body cast and was sent home. A big sign on his front door reads, “Come in please”.

I learned that the driver who hit his car was under-insured. Charlie will not be able to work for months. He will need some money. I thought of a way I could help him. It is related to a long association with this talented man.

Charlie Carrillo's Nativity
Many years ago, Charlie designed a nativity in a New Mexico Spanish Colonial style. This nativity was reproduced and sold by a national company. It could stand on a shelf or be displayed on a wall.

My shop sold hundreds of these popular reproduction nativities. I remember Charlie kneeling on my living room floor, signing the bottom of the nichos, the wooden cabinets that held the figures. The reproduction nativity was made in the Philippines. They seemed to understand the style because they had also had a Spanish Colonial history. Eventually, the Philippine factory closed and the production was moved to China. When there were problems with the quality of the Chinese work, and when we mentioned these problems, the company simply decided not to make them any more. We could not change their mind. My shop keeps a request list of customers who want to buy one if they are ever available again.

Charlie Carrillo Poster 2005In 2004, I asked Charlie Carrillo to design a logo for the biennial convention I was hosting in Santa Fe in 2005 for Friends of the Creche. This organization is for people who are interested in nativities. Because we were already friends for years, and because the reproduction nativity was still available, Charlie generously created this logo as a watercolor.

It is now framed in my house. The calligraphy is by Kathy Chilton. Charlie and Kathy were both speakers at the convention, which I called Land of Enchanting Nativities.

To raise money for Charlie Carrillo in his hour of need, I recently asked Lynn Garlick of Lynn Garlick Retablos in Taos to help, using Charlie’s logo to make an ornament. Lynn makes the many retablo ornaments I sell in my shop.

Then I got Charlie’s written permission to use his image. Michela, my employee who is so talented in computer technology, removed “Santa Fe 2005”, which you can see on the framed original, and improved the quality of the image for reproduction. Lynn produced a retablo ornament at a reduced wholesale price, as her personal contribution to Charlie. It is five inches tall.

Charlie Carrillo’s Retablo by Lynn Garlick

Susan’s Christmas Shop will sell these retablo ornaments for $12 each, and all profit will be donated directly to Charlie. These ornaments are already selling briskly in my shop, but you can now order them on my website or by phone: +1 505 983 2127.

Thank you for reading my appeal to help Charlie Carrillo. I wish you a beautiful spring, wherever you are in this wide world.

Your friend in Santa Fe,
Susan Weber

Retablos by Lynn Garlick

Retablos by Lynn Garlick

Lynn Garlick lives in Taos, New Mexico. She paints religious images in the regional style of New Mexico retablos, or a flat representation of a saint. She prints these images and she glues them onto lightweight wood in several sizes. Her retablos can be used as Christmas ornaments or be hung on a wall. More specific information about each saint is wood burned on the back of the retablo. Susan’s Christmas Shop has sold these for many years, beginning in the 1980s. Among the most popular retablos are St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Santa Fe; Our Lady of Guadalupe; and San Pasqual, the patron saint of the cooks.

Check all her retablos here!

Lynn Garlick in her workshop

The Art of Making Glass Ornaments

The Art of Making Glass Ornaments

Mouth blown, hand painted Glass Christmas ornaments have been a specialty at Susan’s Christmas Shop for 38 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 Blower

The 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. So the glass-blower places the softened glass into a mold, places the open end of the glass tube in his mouth, and then blows steadily to force the softened glass into all the crevices of the mold.

clear glass

The clear glass shape is then set in sand to cool, and it is given a full day of rest before it is silvered. The long pike is still attached. A liquid silver solution is poured down the neck of the pike. Then it is stirred beneath very hot liquid for several minutes. This causes the silver to stick to the glass on the inside. Now the glass is reflective, like a mirror, and it will catch light and shine on your Christmas tree, but it could use a little color.

silvered glass

The pike continues its usefulness as a handle when the light weight ornament is dipped into a base coat of paint.

first color

The colors are painted by hand, one color at a time. The pike serves as a handle.

painting complete

When the painting is complete, the pike is cut and removed and the cap is inserted so that the ornament can be hung. The process from beginning to end takes a week to complete, every step by hand.

Six glass steps

Hope you enjoyed!

Susan Topp Weber

Hot Air Balloons And Book Signing

Hot Air Balloons Festival Albuquerque

October will soon be here. In Albuquerque that means the famous Hot Air Balloon Festival. Hundreds of colorful hot air balloons fill the sky at dawn, providing an amazing spectacle. This Sunday I’ll be in Albuquerque myself, and I invite you to join me at Bookworks at 3:00 PM. Bookworks is a popular local independent bookstore in the scenic north valley of Albuquerque at 4022 North Rio Grande Boulevard NW.

I will give a slide show and talk about my new book, Susan’s Christmas Shop. I will sign copies of all my books. I hope to see you there, as a friendly face in the audience. If you live too far away to be there, I’ll share with you, in this letter, a story I plan to tell Sunday, a story of how I got started with Christmas ornaments.

It was 1969. I was a young housewife with a toddler and a baby. We lived in low rent housing close to the University of New Mexico, where my husband was in graduate school. The apartments had a building where informal classes could be held. I heard that the YWCA was holding classes there, so I put my baby boy in a red wagon and held my toddler daughter’s hand as we walked to the center. A craft class was being offered, but the tuition was out of my reach. As I started to pull my red wagon back to my apartment, a woman from the YWCA said to me, “Wait. Would you be interested in this class?”

“Yes,” I said, “but I have no money.”

“If you have a few dollars to join the YWCA, I will pay your tuition,” she said.

I was amazed. “Why should you do this for me?” I asked.

“When I was young, someone helped me,” she said, “and I would like to pass that along.”

We had never met before that morning, and she had no way of knowing how this class would change my life. As soon as my hands touched the simple salt dough, I knew this was my medium. Within a month, I was selling my Christmas ornaments to a shop. Within a year I was accepted into a juried craft show. Soon I had eager collectors who bought everything I made.

Dough ornaments by Susan Topp Weber

I never saw the woman from the YWCA again, but because of her, I have an obligation to help younger artists. Susan’s Christmas Shop has given me a way to do this. This story and many, many more are in my new book, Susan’s Christmas Shop.

I sent my fond greetings to all of you, no matter where you are in this wide world. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the last flowers of the summer season and the changing leaves of autumn.

Your friend in Santa Fe,
Susan Weber

Free Ukrainian Easter Egg Demonstration

Pysanky Free 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.

Susan-Sommers-pysanky-setThe 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.

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 Hepburn 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!