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.
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.
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.
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.
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.