Land of Enchanting Nativities: A Biennial Convention of Friends of the Crèche. November 8-12, 2019

Land of Enchanting Nativities Santa Fe November 2019

Friends of the Crèche is a national American and Canadian club for people interested in nativities. It has had biennial conventions since 2001. Santa Fe will be the location of the next biennial convention this November. We invite you to attend!

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New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment” because it is so different and special. Our biennial convention in Santa Fe this year is called “Land of Enchanting Nativities”. We will meet at La Fonda, a famous historic hotel right on the plaza of Santa Fe. This hotel has an amazing art collection throughout the hotel and inside each guest room. There are free tours of this art, guided by docents. Just ask the concierge in the lobby.

The focus of our convention will be on the nativities of the American Southwest. On the mezzanine of La Fonda will be a special exhibit of fine southwest nativities, borrowed from many collectors, and displayed inside locked cases. Some of the artists who made these nativities are no longer alive.

Nicolas Otero Retablo Nativity

Would you like to add to your nativity collection? There will be one market where you can buy nativities directly from the Pueblo and Navajo Indians who made them. As usual at our conventions, there will be another market where you can buy nativities from dealers whose merchandise may be from outside the southwest.

Would you like to reduce your nativity collection? Bring those nativities to the convention for the “Silent Auction”. The sale of these nativities will bring money to Friends of the Crèche and find new homes for the nativities you are donating. Click here to send Susan photos of these nativities, if you can.

Alexander GirardWe will begin on Friday, November 8th, with an evening reception at the Museum of International Folk Art on “Museum Hill”. The Girard Wing of that museum has many nativities on display, because Alexander Girard loved and collected nativities. He essentially created the entire field of southwest nativities when he asked Sallie Wagner to encourage her Indian friends to make nativities. Girard will be given a posthumous award for his splendid and long lasting contribution. When you view the Girard wing, you will be asked to find as many nativities as possible. There will also be live music and food to nibble. There will be several southwest nativities from the museum’s collection on display in Lloyd’s Treasure Chest, which is at a lower level, accessible by an elevator. If you are still hungry after the reception, you might like to have dinner at one of Santa Fe’s many good restaurants. A list of restaurants will be given to you, with choices ranging from affordable to fine dining.

The formal opening of the convention will be on Saturday morning at La Fonda’s ballroom. The mayor of Santa Fe will give a proclamation. Later that morning, another mayor, the mayor of Belen, New Mexico, will give a talk about defending the public nativity in his town. Belen is south of Albuquerque. Belen is Spanish for Bethlehem.

Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova

Susan Topp Weber will speak on the subject of Southwest nativities from the different cultures we have in New Mexico, such as Pueblo, Navajo, New Mexico Spanish, and Anglo. She is the author of an award-winning book on the subject.

Land of Enchanting Nativities: A Biennial Convention of Friends of the Creche. November 8-12, 2019

Christopher Toya from Jemez Pueblo will speak on the unique custom of “Bethlehem” at that village. This is a live indoor nativity consisting of a husband and wife who allow their pueblo home to become “Bethlehem” between Christmas Eve and Epiphany while they host the wooden baby from the village church. Chris will have photos of various different Jemez Pueblo versions of “Bethlehem”, from its beginnings to the present. Jemez is a pueblo where photography is not allowed, so it will be a rare privilege to see them. Chris Toya is the first person to research this subject. Don’t miss this talk!

Pat and Persingula, Jemez

After lunch on Saturday, we will see a Spanish Colonial Christmas play called Los Pastores (The Shepherds). The amateur group of actors is from a catholic church in Belen, New Mexico. They own a rare surviving colonial script. The play has a musical aspect, and they sing and play music during the play. The script is in Spanish.

Los Pasores, Santa Fe, NM

Charlie Carrillo is a well-known Santa Fe maker of religious images. These makers are called santeros in New Mexico (but not in any other Spanish speaking country). He has personally taught most of the artists who sell at Spanish Market on the Santa Fe plaza in late July. Years ago, Charlie designed a New Mexico style nativity, which was reproduced for a few years, but is no longer available. It was very popular and those who own one feel very fortunate.

Charlie Carrillo original retablo nativity

Charlie Carrillo Poster 2005Charlie spoke at our convention in 2005 and he designed the logo for that convention. He will speak again at this convention.

Charlie survived a serious automobile accident two years ago and we are lucky he is still alive.

After his talk, we will enjoy New Mexico hot chocolate and Susan’s hand-formed biscochitos, the official state cookie of New Mexico.

BiscochitosOn Sunday morning, after the annual meeting of Friends of the Crèche, Kathy Chilton will speak on how to repair broken nativities. She spoke to us in 2005. Her talk is titled, “Oops, I Just Dropped My Best Nativity. Now What Do I Do?

Sunday afternoon, there will be demonstrations in La Terazza at La Fonda by New Mexico Spanish artists in a variety of techniques, such as wheat straw applique, woodcarving, painting, or a colonial embroidery stitch called colcha. You will be able to watch, ask questions, and buy directly from the artists. The various markets and exhibits will be open till 3:30.
There will be a service available for packing and shipping any treasures you purchase.

Louise Ortega Nativity

Also on Sunday afternoon, Susan Weber will give briefings to those planning to go to Jemez Pueblo Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th. If you have paid to be on one of our rented buses, you will be fed in a pueblo home. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive to Jemez Pueblo. It is a public event.

Sunday evening, we can meet at La Terazza, the lovely hall with dramatic second floor views of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. We will enjoy fellowship and drinks with new and old friends prior to the formal banquet in the ballroom that ends the biennial convention in Santa Fe.

On Monday, some of our attendees may be exploring Santa Fe and Taos or Los Alamos and Bandelier or Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Others will be going on a tour of homes with fine nativity collections, a sold out event. Some attendees will be going to Jemez Feast Day on Tuesday, November 12th.

If you have not yet registered for Land of Enchanting Nativities, but are interested, please do not delay, as it is likely to sell out. If you have never been to Santa Fe, come and discover this international destination in the Land of Enchantment!

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New Mexico map of the Pueblos

Louise Ortega Nativities and Wooden Angels

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.

Louise Ortega Angels New Mexico
Wooden Angels by David Alvarez (2009).

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.

Check at this link for wooden angels and nativities by Louise Ortega!

Louise Ortega Wooden Angels New Mexico
Louise Ortega in front of her Art Studio, New Mexico.

Jemez Pottery Craft by Maxine Toya

Maxine Toya Jemez Pottery Nativity

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.

Click here to check Maxine Toya most recent nativity!

Maxine Toya pottery angel JemezMaxine 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.

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!

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.