Cultural Tourists Seek Deeper Experience

Do your travels include opportunities to experience the authentic culture of the area you’re visiting?  Whether that’s through a national park, a historical place, an ethnic heritage site or a museum, you’re seeking more than to just see the sights.  You’re seeking the distinctive character of the place and its people.  You’re a cultural heritage traveler, a cultural tourist.

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, believes this cultural tourism, an ever expanding segment of the tourism industry, has got it right.

“I love to see more and more people seeking out the real cultural landscape of a place and engaging with its history,” Smith says.  “That may come about by leaving the beaten path to experience the unique scenery, historic homes of native people, the work of local artists, or traditional foods.  All of these things bring to life the character of a place and make a lasting impact.”

Solimar International, a cultural tourism consulting firm, reported that 81 percent of U.S. tourists in 2014 were considered “cultural tourists” and that more than one-third of U.S. tourists agree that specific arts, cultural or heritage events influence their choice of destination.  Many even extend their stay in a place because of cultural activities.

Smith, a cultural tourist himself, has a unique understanding of this group of travelers.  “We’re all seeking touchstones to tie us back to those extraordinary experiences we have as cultural heritage travelers,” he says.  “My aim at the Oldest House Indian Shop is to help people take a little bit of New Mexico, a little bit of Santa Fe or a little bit of the pueblos home with them.  I find it a wonderful opportunity to play a part in making a cultural heritage visit to New Mexico a memory to last a lifetime and beyond.”

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas Street in Santa Fe today and find your touchstone!

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Harrison Begay Paintings Serve As Touchstone

The watercolor paintings of traditional Navajo life created by renowned artist Harrison Begay bring back a time and place in Southwest Native American history in delicate and elegant detail.  His flat, graphic art depicting scenes ranging from the daily life of children and their pets to ceremonial dancers has won numerous awards and is exhibited in museums and private collections throughout the world.

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, has found Begay’s paintings to be a touchstone to the traditions, landscapes and cultures celebrated at the Oldest House.  Raised near the Navajo Reservation in Winslow, Arizona, Smith grew up with Begay’s work and the ideas and scenes he presented through it.

“I was not only very familiar with Harrison’s work, I was captivated by the subjects and the visual repository of this nostalgic period of reservation life being depicted,” Smith says.  “There is an elevated sense of affinity I have with the people and wide open spaces these memorable images bring to mind.”

Begay passed away in 2012 at the age of 95 after making his living as a painter for 65 years.  He began learning his craft in 1933 at the Santa Fe Indian School, studying under influential art teacher Dorothy Dunn, according to a biography of Begay published online by Bischoff’s Gallery.

After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1942 to 1945, a veteran of the Normandy beachhead and other World War II campaigns in Europe, he moved to Denver to enroll in a radio technician’s school, according to a story in the Denver Post.  By 1947 he had taken up painting again and approached the Post‘s art department with his work.

“The staff recognized a big talent when it saw one,” the Post reported in 2014.  “Navajo artist Harrison Begay, 29, had arrived, all right, and he was on his way to the big time.  Begay was to become one of the most noted artists of his generation.”

The Post featured his full-color painting of a traditionally-dressed Navajo woman on a palomino horse on its March 30, 1947, cover and included additional paintings and a story on the artist in the pages of the newspaper.

Begay returned to the reservation and worked in watercolors and silkscreen, but he didn’t seem to sit still.  In the 1940s he worked on the Maisel’s Indian Trading Post mural in downtown Albuquerque, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and other murals.  In the 1950s he created Tewa Enterprises in Santa Fe to make and sell reproductions of his artwork and the work of other Native American artists.

Over the course of his career he earned two grand awards at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial and the Ordre des Palmes Académiques from the French government for his contribution to the arts in 1954.  In 2003, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the organizers of the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

His work is included in the Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Modern Art, the Heard Museum and others.

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Candelaria Suazo Pottery Marked by Intricate Process

The sgraffito two-tone pots created by Candelaria Suazo of Santa Clara Pueblo, some of them detailed tiny miniatures less than two square inches in size, inspire fascination in collections of Native American art.

“These alluring small bowls with intricate symbolic geometric, animal, mythical and prayer feather designs are treasured keepsakes,” says Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop.

Sgraffito, Italian for “scratched,” is exactly as described.  Layers of different colors are applied in the process of making the pot and after drying are then scratched off to create a contrasting image in the under color.  Some of her bowls emerge from firing having both black and reddish-brown coloration, Smith says.

“The contrast between the polished and painted and etched surfaces, especially the cream slip over red, is very pleasing visually,” Smith says of the prize-winning artist’s fine work.

First trained in traditional pottery making by her mother, Santanita Suazo, Suazo began hand-coiling pots from clay found on Santa Clara Pueblo and firing them in a traditional outdoor fire pit in 1987.  She also has been influenced by many other relatives including Margie Naranjo, Martha Huangooah, Mae Tapia, Shirley Duran, Delores Curran and Geri Naranjo, according to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

“Candelaria is a special person to me,” Smith says.  “She has kindly invited me to Santa Clara Feast Days and last summer she demonstrated her pottery creating technique at the Oldest House Indian Shop for collectors during Indian Market weekend.”

Experience the beauty of Suazo’s pottery on a visit to the Oldest House Indian Shop, 215 E. De Vargas St., Santa Fe.

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Tiny Feathers Connect Father and Daughter

When the artist known as Silver Hawk began looking for a project on which to focus his talent more than 30 years ago, the idea of carving feathers out of bone came from his daughter, Rebekah.

Silver Hawk created a pair of feather earrings out of pieces of bone, and what is now Silver Hawk Studio was born.  The Studio now creates more than 30 varieties of small bone feathers carefully carved and painted to replicate the feathers of birds ranging from the golden eagle to the hummingbird.  The feathers are featured on necklaces and earrings available at the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe.

Silver Hawk passed away in 2004 after teaching his original techniques to other carvers and painters, including Rebekah, who continues the Silver Hawk legacy.  Rebekah, the studio’s resident owner and artist, ensures that the designs and carving techniques used are up to her father’s standards.  Rebekah’s daughter is a painter in the family business as well and is the third generation carrying the artistic legacy forward.

Based in Estes Park, Colorado, the Silver Hawk Studio artists create the feathers of birds ranging from raptors like the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl, to their colorful cousins the hummingbird, duck and parrot.  The studio also can create custom feathers from photos sent by customers, sometimes in honor of or in memory of their pet birds.

“We get a lot of emails and cards from people who say, ‘I have an amazing connection to these pieces.  I can feel the good vibes you put into them.'”  Rebekah says, “I want people wearing their Silver Hawk and enjoying it.  That’s what matters to me.  Like my father, I want to spread some color and life and beauty around.”

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, finds that Silver Hawk Studio jewelry reflects the rich Native heritage of the American southwest, recalling the function feathers have in Native American life.

“Silver Hawk jewelry is a captivating artistic expression that serves as a point of reflection on the use and vital function of feathers by Native Americans.”  Smith says, “Since discovering Silver Hawk nearly 15 years ago, this jewelry has served our customers as a touchstone to their cultural experience while visiting.”

See these tiny treasures today at the Oldest House Indian Shop, located at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.

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Wounaan Baskets Bring The Rainforest To Contemporary Art

From the remote reaches of the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle of tropical rainforest on the border of Panama and Columbia, the indigenous Wounaan basket weavers produce museum-quality works of contemporary art sought by collectors for their beauty, craftsmanship and tradition.

“There are no cultures anywhere in the world, past or present, who have made baskets as fine as these artists make,” says Clive Kincaid of Designer Imports, Inc.  Kincaid has traveled to Panama multiple times a a year since 1998 and has bought more than 20,000 baskets to import for sale in the U.S.  He still marvels at the artistry of the work, where one square inch of basketry may contain 1,000 to 1,600 stitches.

The Wounaan master weavers, most of whom are women, have spent the past few decades expanding the scope and artistry of their traditional utilitarian baskets.  Sewing by hand palm fibers dyed with what the jungle has to offer, they have incorporated geometric designs found in their culture’s body-painting tradition and created complicated pictoral designs.

“They’ve done what no other cultural group has done in the world,” Kincaid says.  “Most weavers around the globe are limited to three or four colors, a bleached white, black, brownish orange and yellow,” Kincaid says.  “In the case of the Wounaan, they live in an extremely productive rainforest and they have gone out and tried to find colors they can fix.  They fix the colors by cooking roots, fruits, flowers and leaves with fire ash.  With that they have created an incredible palette of colors to put into their baskets.”

Kincaid says the finely stitched and colorful baskets are further set apart by the intricate and complicated design work.  “Since they branched out over 200 years ago from geometric designs, they are now able with an incredible amount of ability and expertise to create birds, animals, flowers and trees,” he says.  “Some of the big baskets will have a diorama of the jungle on a single basket.”

Living a beautiful but simple life in the remote jungle, a weaver may work from two months to two years on a single basket.  Baskets range in size from three inches in diameter to up to 20 inches.

“The basket design grows from the bottom out so the weaver has to have the entirety of design in her mind when she starts,” Kincaid says.  “It takes a lot of imagination.  A weaver must be very clever, very astute and quite determined in order to make it work.  It really is an amazing phenomenon.”

The baskets of the Wounaan are waiting for you to discover and examine at the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 East De Vargas Street, Santa Fe.  Stop by today.

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Native American-Style Flutes Inspire Music and Art

The sweet, organic tone of the Native American-style flute suggests a deep longing for something or someone distant, while the warm wood grain with leather and stone accents invite investigation in the here and now.

Kyle Smith of Oldest House Indian Shop makes it his mission to find the best sounding and best looking flutes to feature at the shop.  A professional flute player with an album of Native American flute and guitar duets to his credit, Kyle helps the experienced and the novice find their ideal flute, offering concert-quality to beginner flutes.

“We don’t choose the flute, the flute chooses us,” Kyle says.  “I spend a lot of time with our customers, not just selling them a flute, but staying with it.  I want them to enjoy it; for it to change their lives like it has for many of us.”

The flute first called to him in college while he was working in his father’s Native American and Western collectibles store.  He picked up the flute on a lark, but fell in love with it, playing up to six hours a day as he learned the intricacies of the instrument.

“A flute maker came in and told me I needed to record an album,” he says.  In 2009 he traveled to Phoenix to record Echoing Dream, Waking Visions.  He has sold 2000 copies if the CD in Santa Fe and National Parks throughout the West, and recently recorded a second album.

While following his own musical aspirations, Kyle also has been able to place the flute into the hands of many people.  From celebrities like Sammuel L. Jackson and Harry Connick, Jr. to a 98 year-old woman shopping for jewelry who saw the flute and said, “I think I can play that right now.”  And so she did.  Kyle also introducecd the flute to a stroke patient who lost dexterity in his left hand and could no longer play the guitar.  The flute  returned the music to his life and strengthened his hand.

“People are stopped in their tracks looking at Native American flutes just because of their beauty,” Kyle says.  “Some people buy them for pure aesthetics, but I want them to pick them up and play them.  They can be hesitant at first, thinking. ‘I don’t think I could play an instrument.’  But it takes very minimal breath, and there’s a flute for everyone.”

The Oldest House Indian Shop carries flutes ranging in price from $39 to $2,200 from flute makers including Odell Borg, Brent Haines, Colyn Petersen and Dan Selchow.  These passionate artists style their flutes off of the traditional Native American Flutes of the Plains and Woodlands people.  Woods used include walnut, cherry, birch, buckeye  burl, ebony and Brazilian rosewood.  Turquoise, mother of pearl, coral and shell inlay decorate the fine wood, along with leather.  The flutes, most of which are individually handmade, are accurately tuned to a specific key and play the notes of a minor pentatonic scale.

“You can play so many types of music on the Native American flute,” Kyle says.  “It doesn’t have to be Native American-style music.  I can play “Clocks” by Coldplay and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

The Oldest House Indian Shop is the best selling distributor for many of its flute makers due to quality craftsmanship and Kyle’s expertise.  Shop for your flute today at the Oldest House Indian Shop, 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.

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Tenorio Preserves Pottery Tradition

Santo Domingo artist Robert Tenorio says after more than 45 years of creating pottery, he’s still trying to keep up with his grandmother’s methods, preserving the traditional designs and passing the knowledge down the generations.

Picking up his two great-nieces from elementary school on an early release day, he planned for them to paint bowls at his house for the afternoon.  “I love to see the little stick figures they paint,” he says.

“I don’t teach pottery.” he adds.  “That’s one of Grandma’s rules.  You learn by being around people doing it.  You learn every process from gathering the clay to firing just by being around the family.”

One of New Mexico’s foremost pueblo potters, Tenorio’s work was featured in 2016 on the poster and t-shirts developed by the Heard Museum in Phoenix for its “Celebrating the Art of Pottery” Indian Fair and Market.  Also in 2016, the Isleta Pueblo Arts and Crafts Fair honored him with its top award for an artist preserving traditional arts.

“I feel proud of that,” Tenorio says.  “I’m still trying my best to recreate the older styles with the traditional material.”

Using local yucca and other plant juices to make pigment and clay from around his village for his collectible pots, Tenorio features the traditional designs of his heritage.  He draws inspiration from ancient designs like the Mesa Verde steps, Mimbres animals and Kewa Pueblo (Santo Domingo) geometrical shapes.  He gives each piece his on style by exaggerating a specific design element or by combining designs from the three traditions on a single pot.

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop, says Tenorio’s work is deeply appreciated by seasoned collectors and new visitors to New Mexico alike.  “I am fascinated not just with the imagery and process Robert makes use of, but with the essential meaning and importance he brings to his work and the quiet pleasure he derives from it,” Smith says.  “He is more than an artistic designer.  He is a storyteller preserving his culture, history and beliefs.  That is what I appreciate about his work.”

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop today at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe to see Tenorio’s work along with a diverse array of Native American and Western collectibles.

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Charlene Reano Creates Vivid Mosaic Jewelry

The intricate and colorful mosaic components of a Charlene Reano necklace create wearable art that is a touchstone to the Southwest for visitors and locals alike.

Charlene Sanchez Reano and her husband Frank collaborate to create designs combining the traditional materials of Pueblo people with contemporary motifs.  Using shell, turquoise and other stones, the two create innovative Santo Domingo mosaic jewelry in vivid colors and varied textures.

“Charlene Reano’s pieces are a prime example of those touchstones to a moment or an experience that spark the imagination.” says Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe.

Frank comes from a Santo Domingo Pueblo family of jewelers and grew up learning the craft.  Charlene is from San Felipe Pueblo.  After studying at Highlands University in Las Vegas, NM, she cut and set stones for gold and silver inlay at a jewelry manufacturing company in Albuquerque.  Her sister-in-law Angie Reano, who is credited with reviving mosaic inlay among Santo Domingo jewelers, taught Charlene her craft, and she and Frank began making jewelry in the 1980s.  With Frank grinding the shell and doing the silverwork, Charlene creates, designs and cuts the tiny, fragile stones to form the multitude of mosaics that go into each piece.

See Charlene Reano’s beautiful jewelry at Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.  The shop offers a diverse array of Native American and Western collectibles.

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Indian Shop Finds A New Home

The Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas Street in Santa Fe is the new home of the Indian Shop at La Fonda, a retail destination for 27 years.

“We are very excited to be at the Oldest House,” says owner Rick Smith.  “This location is steeped in layers of history dating back to the 1200s.  Here our love of the timeless treasures created in the spirit of the cultures of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Southwest combines with a fascinating community history spanning eight centuries.

The Oldest House Indian Shop welcomes visitors into the Oldest House Museum in the National Historic Landmark Barrio De Analco Historic District, one of the oldest residential neighborhoods of European origin in the United States.  A Part of the Spanish barrio originally settled in 1620, the Oldest House is also believed to rest on part of the foundation of an ancient Indian Pueblo built in the 1200s.  The New Mexico Tourism Department includes the Oldest House on its list of 15 must-see adobe structures.

Smith’s passion for sharing native American and Western collectibles shines through in the richly diverse pieces he offers.  His cases are packed with the work of notable potters, jewelers, carvers and Native American flute makers, and his knowledgeable staff members are happy to tell the stories behind the pieces.  The Oldest House Indian Shop features renowned artists including jewelers Murphy Platero and Ray Scott, Kachina carver Alton Honahni, flute makers Brent Haines and Colyn Petersen, folk artist Rory Alvarez and potters Robert Tenorio and Madeline Naranjo.  Along with his top-tier, distinctly-curated pieces, Smith offers intriguing curios for every for every collector’s budget.

“The pieces we offer in the Oldest House Indian Shop are touchstones to a moment or an experience,” Smith says.  “They are things that spark the imagination and encourage curiosity and exploration.  Here we provide a venue for the joy of being in Santa Fe.”

For more information visit the Oldest House Indian Shop, 215 East De Vargas Street, Santa Fe, NM  87501.

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