Indian Market 2011, Part 2

Saturday, opening day of Indian Market

Hand-woven Navajo rug by Lynda Teller

Last night thunderstorms rolled in over the Santa Fe area, bringing wild clashes of thunder and lightning and heavy rains. And heavy hearts to all of us counting the hours until the opening of Indian Market. Rain is always needed here, but rain for Indian Market would be detrimental to the artists who could lose sales if casual shoppers stayed away. Despite the strong collectors market, artists also depend on impulse purchases that happen when someone falls in love with a piece after hearing the story of how it was made.

I awoke to rain in the early AM, too, but it was light and the wind had subsided. I decided to head up to the Plaza as planned and be there for the early action. Only the most intrepid and dedicated buyers ( and me!) appear in the Plaza area in downtown Santa Fe in the wee hours of Saturday morning, well before the official opening hour of 7 AM.

In darkness they wait: a small price to pay to be first in line to obtain a coveted piece from a favorite artist. The only way to score the choicest pieces is to be first in line at the artist’s booth.

Sometimes the line forms before the artist arrives. Such confirmation of one’s work at Indian Market must be gratifying. Rumors fly among the early go’ers about the year the guy bought all the pots from a pottery artist as she unpacked them. Apparently he handed her a wad of about $60,000in cash for 8 large, choice pieces, and finished her day before it began. Or the story about the Best in Show piece that resulted in an on-the-spot, mini auction between several frantic buyers all of whom wanted it, driving the $16,000 price up even higher.

            Fancy dancer doll by                Jamie Okuma

While this kind of interest can be fueled over any artist, the most desirable pieces  are those selected as a winner by the judges in the Best of Classifications. Hundreds of pieces of art are entered into the judging as artists vie for titles and monetary prizes. Artists bring their pieces to the Civic Center where each piece of art is organized by genre and material.

The judges are sequestered until they announce their decision on Friday morning. Once the winners are announced, the general public is invited to the Civic Center on Friday evening to view all of the artwork. This marks the final countdown to Indian Market and people stream into the Civic Center. Serious buyers come and ‘scout’ the pieces and decide which they will try and secure for their collections early on Saturday morning. Collectors who purchase the coveted Best of Classification pieces ( or the Best in Show Piece ) also receive the corresponding Blue Ribbon.

The value of the Best of Classification pieces begins their escalation in value from this point. Artists who win in these categories are suddenly launched to a new level of status and their work will enjoy more attention and recognition. I also imagine that the price that they had in mind for their piece will be higher by the time that the piece arrives at market on Saturday. Commanding larger sums of money for one’s work is part of the opportunity that a win at Indian market brings to the artist.

Pottery by Jody Naranjo

I attended the luncheon for SWAIA ( Southwest Association of Indian Art ) members on Friday morning, and the listing of  the winners with some photos appears below. And of course, from all of the Classification winners, the most desirable prize of all – Best in Show- is chosen.

Best of Classifications:

Classification I: Jewelry — Chris Pruitt
Classification II: Pottery—Jody Naranjo
Classification III: Paintings, Drawings, graphics and photography—Duani Reynolds-Whitehawk
Classification IV: Wooden Pueblo Figurative Carvings—Arthur Holmes
Classification V: Sculpture—Marcus Wall
Classification VI Textiles—Lynda Teller –Pete
Classification VII: Diverse Arts—Jamie Okuma
Classification VIII: Beadwork & Quillwork—Joyce Growing Thunder
Classification X: Moving Images—Bennie Klain
Classification XI :Basketry—Jeremy Frey
Classification IX: Youth ( 17 years of age and under)—Valerie Calabaza
Best in Show Winner— Jeremy Frey

Basket by Jeremy Frey

There are  many sub-categories, too, under each classification, and winners are chosen in each of these categories as well. For instance, jewelry has 2 main divisions and 20 categories in genres such as bracelets, earrings, pins and pendants, buckles, rings, and more. Thirteen additional awards were given this year for works of exceptional merit, and all total, over $100,000 in prize money was awarded to deserving artists.

Judges are selected each year for their authority in the field of Indian arts, and they are visually trained in knowing how to ‘read’ a piece. They include artists, educators, gallery owners, museum curators, and the like. Most but not all are Native Americans: the overarching criteria is expertise in the specific field that they are judging, and a wide perspective on Indian arts and culture, including unique spiritual beliefs and customs that many artists incorporate into their work.

This year 57 judges called on their wisdom and perspective to select the winning pieces from a pool of extraordinary talent. As one judge said: ‘The visual response or the emotional response is really the key thing. Then we look to see how accomplished the work is, how mature.’

Rains delayed the usual early opening of the market on Saturday, but the weather cleared and brightened by 8 AM. Then the crowds began strengthen. By the time that I passed by Jeremy Frey’s booth his prize-winning basket had sold hours earlier, for just over $16,000.

In his booth, a customer lamented the fact that someone had beat her to the purchase. Most of his smaller baskets, priced in the low thousands of dollars, had sold, too. Several of them remained on display, emboldened with ‘sold ‘ stickers. After I congratulated Jeremy on his well-deserved win and walked away, I could hear him telling her that he would be happy to custom make a similar basket for her. Her response was somewhat drowned out as I was quickly swallowed up by the crowd, but I had the sense that it was in the affirmative.


Indian Market 2011, Part 1

Santa Fe, Friday

I arrived today in one of my favorite places…..the City Different, Santa Fe, New Mexico. As expected in mid-august, the sky is blue and dotted with fluffy, white clouds. And the air is hot but dry, a blessed relief from the sweltering, humid weather where I live in New England.

I quickly dropped my bags in my hotel room and headed out onto the streets and into the galleries. There is a noticeable buzz and excitement in the air, especially among those of us gathering here in anticipation of Indian Market.

During the week leading up to market ( Saturday and Sunday August 20 & 21st ) many special events are held in galleries, hotel and city spaces that bring artists and collectors together. All of these are fun and educational and add to the excitement of the arrival of the grand finale – two glorious days of Indian Market.

On Thursday and Friday evening many of the galleries that represent Indian artists feature special showings, hold gallery talks, artist-in-resident afternoons, and early evening cocktail gatherings. These are see-and-be-seen social opportunities that give the art collecting public intimate, one-on-one ‘face-time’ with the artists. Many of the hotels around the Plaza, too, invite Native artists to showcase their works with special ‘ trunk-shows’ of new works.

Those attending Indian Market must be ready for a visual overload of art in many genre. There is more than usual to see right now in Santa Fe, and many more delicious ways to spend money ( this is in addition to dining in the tasty Santa Fe restaurants!) these few short days.

In essence, for those who love Native American art in all of its glorious manifestations – jewelry, pottery, painting, Katsina dolls, rugs and other weaving, Indian Market is the zenith of the best native talent.

For many artists, the gathering of collectors ( private collectors as well as buyers for museum collections and galleries around the country and abroad ) and the simply eager and curious that arrive for Indian market ( it is estimated that we are in the vicinity of 90,000 strong ) provides them with a significant portion of their annual income.

The Native American art world has many superstar artists in all genre of art – Robert Tenorio, Tammy Garcia, Dan Namingha, Anderson Peynetsa, David John, Cippy Crazy Horse, Anthony Lovato, Upton Ethelbah, Jr., Ray Tracey, Virgil Ortiz, and many others. Each year Indian Market reveals talented new artists to an eager public. In fact, SWAIA ( Southwest Association of Indian Art), the organization behind Indian Market, lists 60 new artists under the age of 17 as exhibiting this year.

The handful of artists who win one of the coveted Best of Classifications will suddenly find their career in high gear and in the top group whose work is most desirable to collectors. But many of these artists do not have superstar status. They live on their Pueblos and reservations and are accustomed to working quietly away from the public eye. So these few days is a time for them to step forward and meet with collectors one-on-one. The ability for artist and collector to interact in this way is one of the true benefits of attending Indian Market. It is an opportunity for collectors to not only purchase art directly from the artists, but to learn how the piece was made and often, to learn about the tradition behind the piece and the passion that went into crafting it.

SWAIA charges the artists a booth fee to exhibit at Indian Market, but they do not charge a commission on the money generated from sales of their artwork. Each artist sets their prices as they see fit, and in general I find the prices to be fair and lower than what one might expect to pay in the galleries for a similar piece from that artist.

But really, one does not come to Indian Market to compare prices with what is being charged by the galleries but to purchase something treasured and wonderful from the person who made it. I feel that everything that I have purchased at Indian Market is part of an experience that I would not otherwise have had, and one that is more personal than when purchasing from the galleries.  Jewelry that I purchased from certain artists years ago is always slightly different from the work that they doing now…..neither is better but each piece represents a marker in that artist’s growth and evolution. I enjoy hearing about what they are doing/not doing directly from them.

Indian Market provides the spotlight for these artists and their art provides the shine. During the next few days these talented artists will become the sole focus of attention in downtown Santa Fe. No one knows for sure because all sales are private, but it is estimated that several million dollars are spent during these few days of fevered buying.

But galleries, jewelry shops and textile shops are busy too, during Indian Market. Collectors work with favorite galleries and gallery owners throughout the course of the year, as these folks have their ear to the ground and have developed close established ties with their artists. While galleries may take a back seat to the outdoors selling during Indian Market, their efforts in promoting Native American artists and exposing the talents of Southwest artists to visitors from all over the world should not be underestimated. The sales people in these galleries and shops and the owners are highly knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about the artists that they represent. For me, my education in Native American art comes not only from the artists themselves but also from the shops and galleries and from the museums.

By 5 AM the most determined buyers will be waiting in line at the booths of the artists whose work they covet most. Some artists sell out of their pieces in the first hour.

I too will be there, searching for my favorite Zuni potter.

Good luck to all !

Cookbooks: Nigel Slater

Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch ( Ten Speed Press 2011 )  is the latest book by Nigel Slater, author of The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, and Toast; The Story of a Boy’s Hunger . He is one of my favorite English food writers. In fact, I am always drawn to English food writers (Elizabeth David, Patience Grey, Jane Grigson, Tamasin Day Lewis) because of their reassuring tone and engaging,  conversational voice.

These writers view food through a different lens than other food writers. To them, food and cooking is not static, or a black and white formulaic topic, but a subject so beguiling that it merits thoughtful consideration. The best of the lot don’t just teach us how to cook but share with us their vision about food and cooking: they muse, debate, decide, select, and present us with situations that gives us the confidence to realize that, yes, I can cook like this, too. This approach shows us that after one has learned the basics of good cooking, that the need to follow recipes exactly-to-the-letter is less valuable than learning to develop one’s instincts in the kitchen.

Nigel Slater’s writing is very welcoming. For him, the process of selecting the foods and ingredients at market, and ready-ing himself to cook, and the steps involved in constructing and then cooking the dish are an important part of his engagement with the food. I think that under his influence, all cooks can find some area in the kitchen that they could pay more attention to.

His voice is personal, and spoken in an intimate and joyful way from writer to reader, cook to cook. His musings consider numerous variables: he wants the reader to find these details as  important as he does. For example, from the  March 7th notation in The Kitchen Diaries he writes: “I have no idea what I had in mind when I bought the two lamb chops that are now sitting on the kitchen worktop. Actually they are leg steaks and there’s enough for two. Whatever it was, the flash of inspiration  must have got lost on the way home. In the fridge are mixed salad leaves – arugula, baby spinach, and some baby chard – and a bunch of mint. I might be able to rescue a few leaves from the bunch of basil that has got to close to the back of the fridge and burned on the ice. There is also the unusual stuff in the fridge and cupboards. I put the chops into a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of light soy sauce and a crushed garlic clove and let then sit for twenty minutes. I get the broiler hot and chick the chops on it, a couple of minutes on each side. Whilst the meat is cooking, I toss the salad leaves into a bowl. Then I knock up a dressing consisting of a couple of small, hot red chili peppers, finely chopped, the juice of half a ripe lime, a tablespoon of dark soy, a handful of shredded mint leaves and a wee bit of sugar. I slice the lamb into pencil-thin strips, and while it is still hot, toss it with the salad and dressing, then divide it between two plates. The mixture of sizzling meat, mellow, salty soy and sharp lime juice is startling, especially with the green leaves that have softened slightly where they have touched the lamb. The few juices left on our plates are stunning, and we mop them up with crispy white rolls.”

This is not a traditional recipe but it shows us that thinking about food and how to combine simple ingredients at hand easily creates a tasty dish that shows off the main element of the dish – the lamb.  It is the personal voice, spoken in an intimate and joyful way from writer to reader, cook to cook, which makes the reader pay attention to details they failed to notice before. He never mentions that the food is good – we know it is because of the words he chooses to describe the lusciousness of the moment. The casual mention of the greens that have softened slightly where they have touched the lamb is but a tiny detail, yet it is a significant one, noticed and appreciate by a passionate and observant eater.

Slater has (and shares) a deeply-rooted connection to things ‘real’ that drives his relationship with food. His books ( as well those of other English, Irish and Scottish writers ) contain a lot of  detail, and they have a special way of discussing the ‘this and that’ kitchen topic – be it butchery, cheese choices, seasonal fruits, etc, that includes the reader in the discourse and process. It is as if we are guests in their kitchen and are privy to some of their private thoughts and kitchen notes. It’s a bit more right- side of the brain, subjective thinking and writing rather than left-side of the brain, objectivity.

We are given lots of explanations, too, in casual discourse, because details are important to these writers. Information might be about where the meat came from, how the animal was slaughtered, what farm raised it, the pros and cons of which vegetables to consider using in a seasonal vegetable casserole, the merits of different varieties of heirloom beans, the glories of farmhouse cider, old-time farming techniques, etc.   All of this matters and is fodder for discussion and consideration.

Tender: A Cook and his vegetable patch has a different focus but is equally compelling. It is the kind of book that makes me want to mess about in my garden and then cook whatever there is that is ready to be picked on that day. Digging about like that in the vegetable garden yields seasonal food at it’s freshest and most flavorful; those with the confidence to put it all together in a tasty dish for dinner that evening have really learned to savor the moments when vegetables are at their seasonal best.

Listen to what he says in the introduction to Tender: ” Vegetables beckon and intrigue me in a way no fish or piece of meat ever could. The beauty of a single lettuce, its inner leaves tight and crisp, the outer ones opened up like those of a cottage garden rose; the glowing saffron flesh of a cracked pumpkin; the curling tendrils of a pea plant; a bunch of long, white-tipped radishes; a bag of assorted tomatoes in shades of scarlet, green, and orange is something I like to take time over.”

I think the key to his genius is in the last sentence:  ‘……is something I like to take time over’.  His gift to us is his vision and his sensibilities, and the ability that he has to convey his thoughts in lovely prose. He makes us stop, slow-down and want to look, feel, taste and appreciate our food and foodstuffs for their unique qualities. His words are every bit as savory as his recipes, and I think he belongs in the same category of food writer as  MFK Fisher and Elizabeth David.

This is a stolen snippet that appears on Nigel Slaters website: ” Author, columnist and broadcaster, he remains very much an amateur cook. Nigel is not a chef and has no restaurant or commercial connections. His food is understated, handcrafted home cooking that is easy to accomplish and without a trace of what he affectionately calls ‘celebrity cheffery’. He is not fond of fussy food and prefers simple suppers made with care and thought. He believes that making something good to eat for your self or for others can lift the spirits in the way little else can. “

I for one will always have a place on my bookshelf for more of his books.

Books for Serious Cooks

Call me old-fashioned. I love to cook, eat, read about food, think about food and dine at the table with companionable friends and colleagues. I have worked with food and food-products my entire adult life and food & travel has become an un-separable part of who I am. What I learn about foods, cultures and cuisines I share with my customers.

It’s no surprise to find out that I also love cookbooks and rely on them for inspiration and cultural footing in the kitchen. To me, the best food writers use their knowledge to bring their readers to a place of understanding about the how’s and why’s of certain foods and authentic cuisines. These authors breathe life into the pages of their books by educating readers to the subtleties and regional diversity that exists within x, y or z cuisine.Some of the books that I treasure never made the top ten list, but they are jewels of wisdom and insight to me.

I also look for well-crafted ideas and good writing. And a distinctive voice of authority. Cookbook authors must be a kindly friend, a travel guide, a personal chef and the family member who loves to cook and wants to feed us well, all rolled into one. It’s a big job !

Cookbooks are like good fiction or a captivating movie: they hold my attention, paint a vivid picture for me of the author’s world and seduce me to want to eat that food, travel to that place, and sit at their table. Perhaps I feel this way because I am always a bit envious of food writers who come from family of spirited good cooks, and who are in possession of a treasure trove of beloved family recipes. Although my grandmother left Italy as a young woman to make a life in American with my grandfather, recipes did not come attached to my birth certificate.

My mother was the youngest of 13 kids, so perhaps by the time she was a young adult, my grandmother was worn out in the kitchen. Whatever the reason, my grandmother did not teach her how to cook. During her teens, her sisters and brothers married and one by one moved out to start their families. To be honest, none of my relatives was known for serving interesting Italian food when I was growing up, and no one really talked much about food, either. Family get-togethers did not focus on food; in fact, the food was pretty standard Italian-American fare.

My grandparents both came from southern Italy, so when I look at vivid, enticing cookbooks such as Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren’s A-16: Food & Wine or Maria Pignatelli Ferrante’s Puglia: A Culinary Memoir,  Nancy Harmon Jenkins The Flavors of Puglia, or Rosetta Costantino’s  My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South, I marvel at what I missed.

I did not begin to learn about the diversity and regional differences in Italian food until I was in college, and met my friend Alvira. She was like me, Italian, and grew up in a small town very close to our school. Her parents would often come to visit, and her mother always brought homemade foods and treats that we  feasted on after she left. When we had a car at our disposal, we would go to her home for the weekend. I knew that her mother did not speak much English –  there were many Italian women in her community and she kept house for her family, so she felt no need to learn – but she had recipes from home that she prepared as she would have back in Italy. She was a wonderful cook, and being around her introduced me to Italian foods and food customs that my own family did not have to share. She was exotic and fascinating to me, and I admired her for how she chose to live her life in a foreign country and for the attention she lavished on food and importance that she place on it.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to hear magazine editor Dorothy Kalins speak about the direction of cookbook publishing in the USA. Her main point was that HOME COOKING IS COMING BACK. The reasons for this are many, but include thoughts like ROCK STAR CHEFS AND THEIR BOOKS INTIMIDATE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LEARN TO COOK.

I was thrilled to hear Dorothy’s statements about the return of home-style cooking for many reasons. First, some of our friends or relatives of friends are among the best cooks that I know, and they don’t consider themselves chefs. They love food and cooking, and take the time to construct interesting menus, purchase good, sound meats, veggies and other ingredients for the dishes they will cook, and then spend whatever time is required in the kitchen preparing the meal. Most of our friends have entered our lives through the doors of our specialty food store or are food-writer colleagues. I am spoiled by the quality of food that we enjoy at the tables of others and that we cook in our own kitchen, so we are fortunate.

We live in a time of juxtaposing realities. Larger-than-life chefs and expensive restaurants are still on a roll, and it seems that the more cutting-edge or experimental the restaurant, the more clamor there is to dine there. And pay exorbitant prices for the experience. Pop-up restaurants are a good example, too, as many want to connect with the next ‘in’ thing. But at the same time, roaming food trucks, with simple but delicious, stand-up-to-eat-it ethnic foods or BBQ are equally popular. I understand the appeal of both experiences, and care less if I sit or stand as long as the food is worth the wait.

When I eat out, I always look for small little restaurants – the places that you find that you only want to tell your best friends about. Mom & Pop places with a soul or an edge that work hard to treat their customers to a delicious, well-prepared meal. There are more of these types of restaurant in the US now that ever before as more graduates of cooking schools eschew the corporate food world for the opportunity to follow their own vision.

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to food, food philosophy, and food culture. I think that eating with the seasons has always made sense. I like the natural appearance of foods, and am happiest when I can recognize what is sitting on my plate. I don’t need tall food or want plated food served to me in a bowl. Eating out doesn’t always make me happy, and I know enough to see through the hoopla.

So, to my delight I recently discovered an article written by Chef Sara Jenkins that ran in The titled: Why Home-Style Cooking Will Always Beat Restaurant-Style. And I applauded her statements when I read it. Her point is this: ‘“I’m perturbed that people have gotten so turned around that they think restaurant food is the best food, and that the highest level of cooking is to cook restaurant-style in the home. Even in the finest restaurants, restaurant food, while delicious and deserving of its place and entertainment and theatrics, is really not the best food of all.” And she goes on to explain why she believes that this is so, which I urge you to read for yourself.

I like that Dorothy Kalins said that home cooking is coming back, and that Sara is a defender of home-style cooking. I take these statements to mean that ‘real food’ is coming back, and that there is a discernible shift away from molecular gastronomy and recipes that call for un-findable ingredients and elaborated cooking procedures.

Perhaps home cooking or a return to traditional foods is trending back again. The list of cookbooks published this year ( and the end of last year, too ) features an abundance of titles from talented cookbook writers with defined platforms and well-honed areas of expertise. Fewer of them are chefs, and there are fewer high-minded restaurant books, too, than published in 2009/2010.

Selecting cookbooks to sell is not easy. It’s difficult to please everyone, and the quantity of published works is staggering. But as a specialty foods retailer my job is to narrow down, focus, select the best, and defend my choices. So I use the same criteria for selecting books for my store that I do when purchasing books for my own collection.

As a rule of thumb, I like serious books. I avoid cookbooks by food celebrities and always pass on cookbooks written by celebrities who have elbowed their way into the food world on their name and glamour. I don’t sell fad diet books or books about the latest momentary health craze; books by writers who look as if they need a good meal or who are prissy, or snarky; books that are cutey or written by someone with trumped-up credentials; and tedious books featuring dull-sounding food.

There is still so much to learn and appreciate about the foods of the world – I like to make every meal count!

Click here for the current list of book for sale at Cooks Shop Here: