Truly Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We applaud Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil ( W. W. Norton & Company 2011), for continuing the conversation about deceitful practices and mis-leading advertising claims regarding many of the branded olive oils that are being sold in supermarkets, discount food chains and food warehouses.

Much has been talked about over the past few years in this regard, but this book will finally bring this topic to national attention and to the awareness of the audience that most needs to be informed – consumers.

These branded olive oils are made to be sold cheaply and in huge quantities, and are blended by corporate food companies for their own sales or to be bottled and sold under another brand’s label. These oils are composed of various oils from many sources, and many of these products are not what they seem to be.

Most of these oils are not made exclusively from olive oil – some contain cheaper nut oils. Many of these olive oils, even when composed of olive oils, contain low, industrial grades of oil that do not test positively for purity when examined in a lab. What does this mean? Besides only offering fatty, musty flavors, these olive oils do not contain any of the healthful antioxidants that legitimate extra virgin olive oils are known to have.

The next time you wonder why cheap olive oil is well, cheap, think about why that is and what isn’t in the bottle. As is true for most cheaply made products, buyer beware. These shady olive oil practices by corporations and food packers have been exposed in the past and have been known to us for many years. This is the reason why we have never sold this type of olive oil.

For years, the Olive Center at the University of California at Davis has been leading the charge about deceptive practices in branded olive oil. In April of 2011 they released a study claiming that:

” a great majority of US consumers are paying a premium for mislabeled oil which fails to meet recognized standards and is often rancid or adulterated.” 

According to their testing, they reported that  out of 134 samples of the five top-selling imported olive oils labeled as extra virgin, the Center reported that 73% failed to meet International Olive Council (IOC) sensory standards. The five brands are Filippo Berio, Bertolli, Pompeian, Colavita and Star .

At Cooks Shop Here we are vigilant about the provenance of the extra virgin olive oils that we sell and the people that we support.  Our customers can rest assured that all of our extra virgin olive oils are grown, pressed , and bottled by individual olive farmers or olive farmers belonging to the local co-operative from olives that are grown on their own olive farms in France, Greece, Italy, and Spain.

Our extra virgin olive oils are produced in limited quantities and these producers do not bring in ‘other’ oils to extend their yield. These small-scale artisan producers take pride in their craft and their products, and they do not adulterate their olive oils. These are proud family businesses, many of which have been in the olive oil business for generations.

Most of our producers have websites that explain their craft. They can also be reached via email or telephone, and their farms or olive oil pressing mills can often be visited when visiting their particular regions of Europe.

Many of our producers have earned the right to use the coveted DOP ( protected origin ) mark on their olive oils. Unlike the interest of corporate concerns, the goal of our olive producers is to press delicious, distinctive olive oil that delivers superior, luscious flavor that is indicative of the specific olive varieties used in the oil and the terroir where the olive trees grow.


We carefully & specifically select each extra virgin olive oil that we sell so that each brings to the table the excellent range of flavors that a particular region and country is known for.  These unique terroirs, coupled with the diversity of local varieties of olive trees and their fruit (olives ) add character to the distinctive cuisine of the Mediterranean, and will add delicious flavor and healthful benefits to your food.

For more information about our extra virgin olive oils, please visit our website: www.CooksShopHere.com

Admiral’s Rum and Brandy Punch

We were thrilled to discover that Imbibe Magazine (www.imbibemagazine.com) has featured our Admiral’s Rum and Brandy Punch recipe from our book Hot Drinks on their website. Thanks, Imbibe!

Our sure-fire, delicious punch is perfect to serve an apres-ski crowd or when gathering around the fire on a snowy winter day. The warm, sunny color is pleasing and inviting- we named this drink Admiral’s Rum and Brandy Punch after a West Indies-inspired combination of grapefruit, pineapple and rum.

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Photo by Marshall Gordon
                                                                                                Admiral’s Rum and Brandy PunchTangy flavors of apricot, pineapple and grapefruit mingle with the subtle spices of rum and brandy in this warming winter punch.1 cup apricot puree
2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup white grapefruit juice
1/2 cup light rum
1/4 cup brandy
Tools: saucepan
Glass: heatproof punch cups or glasses
Garnish: lime wedgesCombine the apricot puree and juices in a saucepan                             over medium heat and bring to a low simmer. Lower                                the heat and simmer gently for two minutes more,                                then add the rum and brandy.                                                                 Place a lime wedge in four heatproof glasses and                                divide the warm punch evenly. Serves four.

Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, Hot Drinks                                      (Ten Speed Press, 2007)

Tokoname Teapots

We have been admirers of hand-crafted Japanese Tokoname teapots for years. In fact, we featured a stylish black Tokoname teapot on the cover of our book, The Story of Tea. We had so many queries about that teapot after our book came out that we contacted the tea maker and ordered a quantity of these gorgeous vessels to sell.

Now, four years later, that teapot is no longer being made. So we  re-kindled contacts we made in Tokoname during a brief visit there a few years back and placed an order for a special selection of stunning hand-made teapots. We asked to be sent photographs of works by master Tokoname potters and boy, did our man in Japan deliver! It was difficult for us to decide on which teapots to purchase, but we settled on a selection of stunning choices.

All of these teapots are unique, beautiful and desireable. Each vessel represents the vison of the clay artist, and we decided to mix it up in our selection of color, shape, texture and technique. We are thrilled to offer these functional works of art to our tea enthusiast customers and teawares collectors.


Tokoname has been a center of ceramic production since the 12th century and is, along with the kilns at Seto, Shigaraki, Echizen, Tanba,and Bizen, one of the oldest pottery production sites in Japan. Fortunately for those of us who are clay collectors, many pottery artisans in Tokoname have been honing their skills from a young age, and are now the clay masters. Their teapots are sought after worldwide for many desirable features, such as balance in pouring; skillfully tailored, pleasing shapes; thin-walled sides; highly polished, fine, smooth surfaces or lightly textured, matte finishes; elegant aesthetics, and complete, precise functionality.

Tokoname teapots are made in a variety of shapes and utilize many techniques that are the result of both hand skills and tool work. These teapots are categorized as yakishime – high-fired unglazed stoneware. Tokoname teapots are made from an iron-rich clay, and are very fine in texture. The clay allows the teapot and the tea to interact in a positive way. Many tea connoisseurs believe that unglazed clay sweetens the tea or adds a little minerality or backbone to the flavor of the tea – and those who use these teapots (and Yixing teapots for Chinese oolongs and Pu-erh, and hand-crafted Korean teapots, too ) know what I mean.

In Japan, these stylish teapots are used to steep Japanese green teas, which are long in length and have characteristic thin, needle-like leaves. Japanese green teas are quite different in size and appearance from Chinese green teas, and the best ones are steeped and drunk in small quantities. Accordingly, these teapots may be smaller than what many black tea drinkers may be accustomed to, but they are perfectly sized for steeping Japanese ( or Chinese or Korean ) green teas.

Most Tokoname teapots are kyusu-style teapots, which means that they are constructed with one handle on the side of the teapot. Occasionally western-style handles are placed on these teapots, and these are referred to as ushirode-kyusu-style. If the handle is placed so that it arcs above the opening of the teapot then that is a dobin-style teapot.

Unlike lifeless factory made teapots, these little hand-made teapots are works of art with personality. Each teapot reflects the vision of the artist who made it, and each is as functional as it is beautiful. Any one of these teapots will enhance your tea steeping and tea drinking pleasure.

We requested that all of our teapots have a clay infuser ( not stainless steel or mesh ) built into the spout of the teapot to catch the tea leaves before they exit the teapot. These infusers come in two styles: a flattish sasame strainer or ball-strainer, depending on the preference of the potter.

Please visit our website: www.teatrekker.com for more teapots and more details about these fantastic Tokoname teapots.

The most amazing packaging of all time !

All of our teapots arrived in perfect condition. The person who packed our order did a meticulous job and was  extraordinary careful. As we unpacked the boxes, we discovered that custom-fit cardboard ‘chests’ had been constructed for each grouping of 4-6 teapots. Each ‘chest’ was custom-sized and also lined with bubble wrap. All in all, the outer boxes contained 6 of these ‘chests.’  And each teapot was packed in a cardboard box of paulowina wood box. (This is in direct opposition to  shipments of Chinese ceramics, in which each piece is wrapped in bubble wrap and all are tossed into a previously used box.  I am sure a dose of ‘hope for the best’ goes in there, too!).

I so appreciate it when special items are carefully wrapped, and when the person packing and handling them treats them with the respect that they deserve.

2011 Christmas Message from the ‘Queen’

Merry Christmas 2011 to all our Cooks Shop Here family of friends and customers.

Please watch as Monkey, a knitted woollen doll and the brand-mascot of PG Tips tea, dressed in regal attire, gets properly sozzled in a tongue-in-cheek take on the Queen’s Christmas speech. Watch was happens as ‘she’ reflects on the highlights of the ‘year gone by.’  This video features only Monkey – sidekick Al is mentioned at the end only, but appears in the portrait at the beginning of the video.  We watch this video whenever we need a lift (we drink tea, too, when we need a lift) and always break out in peels of laughter each and every time. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

This now iconic PG Tips ad scooped 2 Gold Awards for Unilever Brands at the British Television Advertising Awards in 2008.

The PG Tips chimps are among the most beloved ad icons in the UK, with campaigns running 20 years deep, give or take a little.

Why Chimps ?

In 1956 PG Tips debuted television commercials featuring live chimpanzees  dressed up in clothes and wigs to look like humans and carrying on in various humorous sketches. But the activity was ultimately about delighting in the satisfying taste of PG Tips tea. The first of these commercials aired on the UK’s newly launched commercial TV station on Christmas Day 1956.

The ads, inspired by the chimps’ tea parties held at London Zoo in the 1950s, propelled PG Tips to become the most loved tea in Britain.

In the space of only two years since the first advert was aired PG Tips moved from fourth in the ratings to top of the heap in tea popularity.

But after animal welfare campaigners successfully lobbied against the ads, the ads stopped in 2002 and have not been aired since. ( If you squander enough time on You Tube you can find several of them. The ad showing the chimps moving a piano downstairs has been shown on British television more times than any other advertisement over 2,000 screenings).

Why Monkey?

Since 2008, a new series of ads with a sock monkey – Monkey ( mon-keh) – and his sidekick Al ( comedian Johnny Vegas ) have replaced the old chimp ads.

Monkey is an adorable lad and Al is, well, Al. By far, my favorite ad is the message of Christmas Cheer.

About PG Tips Tea

Arthur Brooke founded Brooke Bond Tea Company in 1869, starting with a single tea shop. He was the son of a tea dealer, Charles Brooke, and as a child was allowed to clamber up and ride in the wheelbarrow along with packets of tea that were being delivered to homes in Ashton-under-Lyme, England.

By the 1890’s, Arthur Brooke has several tea shops in various locations. He expanded into the wholesale tea market and gained more notice for his brand by delivered his tea all over England in distinctive black vans. The Brooke Bond brand became synonymous with tea throughout the United Kingdom and his company introduced a second brand in 1930 — PG Tips.

I wish that PG Tips would include sock monkeys in special packs of the tea in the USA!
To see what Monkey is up to these days, please visit the PR Tips website: http://www.pgtips.co.uk/

Anderson Peynetsa, Zuni Potter

My needle always settles between west and southwest. The future lies that way to me, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side. – Henry David Thoreau

I discovered this line in a Thoreau essay titled Walking. It expresses how I feel about the Southwest more eloquently than I could do myself.

A fanciful decanter vividly painted and shaped like a duck

What is it that inspires me  to return again and again to this rugged, sometimes lonely place ? I think just about everything – the wide open, un-blemished spaces; the soft, pale colors of ancient mesas, sprawling desert and deeply cut canyons that define the landscape; the clear, pure light; the shifting weather and dramatic skies; the high elevation and dry air; the tumultuous history of this place and the blended cultures of today; the museums and galleries (equally educational); and Native American art and artists.

While there are fine art painters of all stripes in the Santa Fe and Taos areas, and galleries that specialize in Spanish Colonial art, Cowboy art or Western art, Native American textiles, sculpture and jewelery, my special weakness is for polychrome Pueblo pottery. Although I admire the diverse work of many talented Native American potters, my favorite pieces are made by Zuni potter Anderson Peynetsa.

Anderson holding one of his little painted pots

When I finalized my plans to attend Indian Market this year (Indian Market is a once a year juried show of Native American art held in the streets of downtown Santa Fe on the 3rd weekend of August and produced by SWAIA). I quickly scanned the exhibitor listing for Anderson’s name. YES,  he would be there and I was thrilled that I would be able to meet him and see some of his new work.

On the first day of Indian Market, I arrived in downtown Santa Fe around 6 AM and made several passes by his booth hoping that he would be there. Towards 7 AM he was at his table and had just finished unloading his precious cargo from his car. His wife and children were busy  un-wrapping some large, exceptionally gorgeous pieces, and I scanned the table quickly to take in all that they had brought.

He told me that he had made these large pieces to sell at Indian Market, and I was thrilled to see them. I knew that these pieces would certainly be snapped up before the weekend was over, and I was envious of the lucky collector (s) who would take these pieces home with them.

I have been a fan of Anderson’s work and Zuni pottery for a long time, and have admired many of his pots in galleries in the Santa Fe area over the years. Honestly, these stunning pots (he let me hold them!) were among the best pieces of his work that I have seen. They simply took my breath away.

Anderson’s pots are built the way Zuni potters before him have made their pots – from hand-rolled, thin coils of clay. The shapes of his pieces are pleasing to the eye and are impeccably gracious in aesthetic and even in shape. His painting has matured into a fluid, rhythmic style. Like most pueblo potters, he makes his paints from earth and plant pigments. He paints with black and reddish-brown pigments on either pure white or dark, earthy red highly polished backgrounds.

Working as a team, Avelia sands and polishes the pottery. Anderson told me that she has the touch for that – he breaks the pots when he tries to polish. Pots are made in the morning and painted at night. Small pots dry in one afternoon; large ollas dry for several days. He applies his white slip evenly and rather liberally – the color of clay body of the pot does not show through. Some artists let the clay show through a thin coating of slip and I find it distracting from otherwise nice work. He also has a very steady hand with the paintbrush and is very good at loading his brushes to deliver an even application of pigment over the surface of the pot (no thin spots in the color).

Someone else’s pot with a thin application of white slip

Anderson’s trademark heart-line deer motif painted on a large water jug ( olla). Notice how differently the deer is rendered in this pot versus the pot above

The Peynetsa family is well known in collector circles. Anderson’s sister Agnes makes smaller pieces, most of which are adorned with lizards and frogs, animal symbols that are very esteemed by the Zuni. In fact, it is one of her frog pots that brought her family to my attention. Avelia is more than happy to let the spotlight shine on her husband, but she did tell me that she, too, makes pots.

Frog pot by Agnes Peynetsa

Anderson and Avelia learned their craft at Zuni High School from Jennie Laate ( an accomplished Acoma potter who taught at Zuni), and he has been a potter ever since. Working as potters is how this family makes their living – this is not a part-time occupation. I would say that Anderson is close to being middle-aged, and, from the pieces that I saw, in the prime of his craft.  I look forward to watching his work change in the years to come as he grows as an artist.

I could not help but notice Anderson’s hands – they so clearly look like the hands of someone who works with a wet medium. Clay is very drying as it sucks the oils from the surface of skin. And, preparing clay from rock sherds is a laborious, hands-on job. He told me that he, like other Zuni potters and his ancestors, dig their own clay on the pueblo lands in a sacred place where only the potters are allowed to go.

After digging the clay from the earth, the clay is hauled to their home and soaked in water for 2-3 days to soften. Sometimes small, broken pieces of  pottery sherds are added to the clay for suppleness if needed. Excess water is drained away, and the clay in put in pillow cases outside to rest.

By Sunday afternoon, all of Anderson’s big pots, including the exotic duck canteen, had sold. They were very happy with that, and I was pleased for them. I imagined that one lucky buyer purchased all three pieces, but I will never know. Perhaps one or more pieces will go into a museum collection, or to a gallery overseas, or to the home of someone rich and famous living in the Santa Fe foothills.

For those visiting the Santa Fe area, the Zuni pueblo is located far in the western edge of New Mexico about 2 hours driving distance from Albuquerque. There are several crafts shops on the pueblo who sell Anderson’s work. In addition to pottery,  Zuni is famous for little carved fetish animals, and inlaid turquoise jewelry. For those who drive this route, be sure to leave several hours in your schedule and visit the Acoma Pueblo along the way, too. Beautiful polychrome pottery can be purchased here as well.

The Simple Beauty of Native American Pottery

I have been in awe of the beauty of Native American Indian pottery from the American Southwest for some time now. As my interest grows and I learn more, I realize how much there is to know and understand. My appreciation of both the old styles of pottery and new interpretations by today’s generation of potters will happily keep me learning about the artists and their work for years.

The elegant, sweeping design of a coil vase mimics the coils of clay used to build this piece of traditional coil pottery. Form meets function as the coils become the design element of this gorgeous pot.

Last year, before leaving for our tea buying trip to Japan, we stopped off along the way in Albuquerque  and purchased some traditionally-made   pottery to take as gifts to colleagues and traditional potters with whom we would be visiting in Japan. We wanted to take them a style of pottery different than their style of pottery ( and different than all East Asian pottery in fact ) and something truly American.   We chose an Acoma seedpot and a Jemez  coil vase, similar to the one pictured above.

Our hosts were fascinated by the pottery. As potters and artisans, they were interested to learn about the craft of the pottery – how it was made, how it was decorated and how it was fired.  We explained that both cultural influences and the practical matters of how the pottery is made were responsible for ‘shaping’ the pots, and that these factors  are as integral to the essence of this pottery as their Japanese techniques and values are to the pottery that they make.

They were curious about the clay and the way in which the clay was shaped and worked by hand. The earth and plant pigments used to decorate the pieces brought the most astonishment, as did the color photographs that we brought of the landscape of the American Southwest. This pottery is so different from what they are familiar with that we knew we had made a good choice.

I wish that Native American pueblo pottery was as well known across all regions of the USA as it is in the Southwest. These artisans deserve recognition and respect for their work and talent. Those here and abroad who collect Native American pottery are fiercely loyal and are determined to build important collections. Museums are adding pieces to nascent collections, and galleries across the USA often feature the work of Indian potters. But more people need to be exposed to this pottery, which, by collectible standards, are still very reasonably priced.

Most Native American artists in the Southwest live on or near one of the Pueblos of the northern and lower Rio Grande river, close to extended family and the center of their culture. Many of these pueblos maintain centuries old pottery making traditions ( and many other fine arts, as well ). Today’s most well-known potters are children, nieces or nephews or grandchildren of legendary potters who contributed significant advances to the pottery making tradition of their particular pueblo.

These pueblos are spread along the Rio Grande River from Taos ( north of Santa Fe ) to Albuquerque and west to the Arizona border.  Most potters still work with many of the same expressive design elements that their ancestors used.

A contemporary interpretation of         a traditional, old-style figure made       by Lisa Holt and Harlan Reano

But young artists are introducing contemporary design and movement in new directions, too. In the world of pottery collectors, all of these styles have been embraced as new work and ideas advance the art form. I admire Pueblo pottery in all of its glorious shapes, styles and designs, but for me it is the old-style, thin -walled, traditional, polychrome pottery painted with simple, symbolic motifs in earth pigments that appeals to my magpie eye the most.

Potters from the Acoma, Cochiti, Laguna, Santo Domingo, Zia, and Zuni pueblos are known for this style of pottery. Cross over into Arizona and the Hopi too, create finely painted, highly detailed and stylized pots.  Feast for a minute on these fine, eye-dazzling examples of painted pots by two acclaimed artists of the Acoma pueblo. These pots express precision and exuberance in painting at its most difficult and best.

stylized ‘eye-dazzler’ pots from Acoma potter Victoria Sandorino

    Traditional Acoma seed-pot with applied insects by artist Carolyn Concho

Polychrome pots are painted with designs applied by brush ( yucca or modern, adapted brushes ) in earth-tone pigments. The palette features blacks, tans, ocher and brownish-rust colors ( the natural colors of the Southwest ) applied to a solid white or tan slip painted background.

In the past, pueblo pottery had a utilitarian function or had ceremonial uses. Large and medium sized pots – ollas -were made to collect water. Bowls in varying sizes and widths were made to hold food and foodstuffs, and offerings to spirit deities. Today, the pottery is made in these same shapes, but often with a new injection of creativity and artistic flair. Most artists will say that their pots are completely functional, just as the pots made by their ancestors were. But for collectors, these works are purchased strictly as objects of beauty and fine art.

Although some similarities exist, each Pueblo has a recognizable style.  Potters develop their own style based not as much on the shapes of their pieces ( which can be similar to others ) or the colors used ( also similar to other potters ) but by the designs and motifs that they emblazon on their pots.

A display of stunning Pueblo pots

All pueblos use geometric elements such as lines, arcs, circles, and more in their designs. Some of these design elements mimic patterns found on ancient potsherds attributed to the Membres culture. Acoma and Zia ollas and vases often feature roadrunners, flowers and parrots in their design, and small insects and frogs appear on tiny seed pots. Zuni potters feature animal designs, such as frogs and lizards, butterflies, feathered serpents, and heartline-deer.

Highly-polished black pottery from the San Ildefonso pueblo  can be deeply carved or feature designs painted with a trademark black on black technique. Similarly, the Santa Clara pueblo makes highly polished red-brown earth tone pottery, which is most frequently carved. Very complementary one to another, these pieces are different in execution and complexity.

Dramatic and stunning carved container by Nancy Youngblood

          a classic pot from an unknown             Santa Clara artist

I copied the following information from a sign in the Buschsbaum Gallery of Southwestern Pottery at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This museum is a must see for anyone visiting Santa Fe who wishes to see a fantastic collection of historic pots plus  exhibitions of contemporary artists and their work. The sign explained the steps of traditional pottery making and polychrome painting in a concise way. I have embellished a few lines to make the meaning clear as I was not able to reproduce the accompanying images featured in the exhibition.

Clay is living. Potters speak to it, pray to it, revere it. Gathering clay is hard work and once collected, it is dried and then soaked to remove impurities. It is sieved to clean it further. A temper is then added to the clay to reduce shrinkage and cracking during firing and drying.

Traditionally made pots are formed using the ‘coil and scrape’ method. As fingers pinch clay and roll it into coils, successive coils of clay are used to build the pots. Coil junctures are smoothed with a curved edge tool such as pottery shard. But potters have also adapted popsicle sticks, hairbrush handles, can lids, and kitchen knives.

After excess clay is scraped away to achieve a uniform thickness, the pot is smoothed with sandpaper.

Next the potter applies the slip, a watery clay mixture. While this is still damp, the pot is polished with a smooth river stone. Painted decoration is applied according to established traditions, using earth and plant pigments, but each potter paints in his or her own individual way.

Although some pottery is now fired in electric kilns, most is fired outdoors. Several pots are placed on a grate, and fuel – usually cow or sheep manure – is stacked around the pottery and then mounded to cover the entire fire pit. The firing is a delicate stage – imperfections in the clay or air bubbles can cause a pot to explode, often damaging other pots. While warm, the pots are removed from the fire and wiped clean.

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.