Global Entry: All Roads Lead to the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe

A behind-the-scenes look at some of the artists working in Mexico, India, Kenya, and Guatemala as they prepare to show their works and wares in Santa Fe during the International Folk Art Market—top creatives’ secret source the best in global design.

A behind-the-scenes look at some of the artists working in Mexico, India, Kenya, and Guatemala as they prepare to show their works and wares in Santa Fe during the International Folk Art Market—top creatives’ secret source the best in global design.

For the 16th year in a row, Santa Fe will host the International Folk Art Market on the town’s Museum Hill. Each July, the show turns the city into a microcosm of the world. What started as a boutique event hosting 70 international artists has evolved to a four-day affair showcasing more than 150 artists from 50 different countries, all of whom come to display, share, and sell their unique crafts. More than 700 people apply each year, with a committee having to narrow down the entries. Countries as far-flung and diverse as Nepal, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, and Hungary, will all be represented, and the pieces span everything from indigo and vegetable-dyed textiles to ceramics, paintings, and baskets. The program has thus far included 1,000 artists from 100 countries and totaled more than $31 million in earnings, with as much as 80% of the profits directly benefiting the artists.

While the majority of the crafts shown at the fair are rooted in traditions that date back hundreds of years, it’s these kinds of wares that have inspired many modern-day designers, from Tom Ford (who owns a Tadao Ando–designed home in Santa Fe) Isabel Marant, and Ulla Johnson (whose fashion inspirations have often derived from indigenous clothing) to Axel Vervoordt (who have distilled global design into his iconic interiors). With so much of contemporary design—and even minimalist contemporary design—focused on craftsmanship and finding one-of-a-kind items, IFAM is perhaps the place to source the most eclectic global wares in one setting.

This year’s event is happening from July 12-14 and will feature 45 first-time artists (three of which are from countries never before represented: Australia, Bulgaria, and Iraq). Tickets start at $15. In advance of the show, we interviewed a handful of the artists to see how they are preparing in their studios from around the world.

Porfirio Gutierrez, Master Weaver
Teotitlan del Valle, Mexico

Craft: I look at my work based on an understanding of my own culture. We’re bringing about 25 to 30 pieces this year. What’s amazing is that each of the materials comes from a living source. It’s an art form that started with my ancestors thousands of years ago, and I get to be the transmitter of culture. This is my fourth time exhibiting, but it’s the first year I was accepted with more innovative designs.

Preparation: We started six months ago. Our process requires working in harmony with mother nature. We have to rely on nature to give us water to make the plants grow, and then pick them at the right time for color. We work with indigo, red dye that we get from cochineal insects, and plants from our mountains and gardens, including a fruit from the persimmon family, tree moss, Mexican tarragon, and pecan leaves.

Looking forward to: This is such a unique venue that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. The way that the community comes together to make it all happen is amazing.

Rupa Trivedi, Adiv Pure Nature, Textile Designer Specializing in Natural Dyes
Mumbai, India 

Craft: We understand that the charm of the Temple Blessings, [where we take offerings at local Hindu temples such as marigold, hibiscus, and rose, and recycle them into dyes], is the primary attraction for all our customers. Keeping this in mind, we have created some stunning new colors and prints with the temple flowers as a component in almost all the product line. Our last experience had made us realize that people love simple wearable garments.

Preparation: We begin the initial preparations starting in February, and it intensifies as we get closer to the date. This prep time is exciting as creative innovations and the individual artistry blooms, and it is a joyous time when the monotonous chore of the regular production is interspersed with bursts of creative imagination. We have about 28 people employed at Adiv, and we are committed to at least three weavers for our fabrics. Our self-taught urban artisans are the force behind our work.

Looking forward to: Most often, our work is done in collaboration with a designer or brand (and we love working that way,) but at IFAM, we create and sell our own work, which makes it unique to the in-house creativity. Our dyers have freedom at IFAM to design and present textiles that they like—the joyous freedom to express creativity brings out amazing artistry.

Cheryl Conway, director of development, Multicolores Guatemala
Central Guatemala

"Flowing from a Woman's Hands," an exhibition rug by Rosmery Pacheco.

Craft: We are bringing 189 unique pieces with us to Santa Fe, including a mixture of rugs of different sizes and shapes, footstools with hand-carved wooden feet, and cushion covers. We are currently working with 39 rug hookers from five communities and 27 embroiderers from four communities. One of the advantages of this artform is its flexibility and compatibility with the women’s lives. Meaning, rug hooking can be scheduled around the women’s responsibilities at home, and it enables them to combine working from home while looking after their children. The tools to rug hook are portable, which facilitates this ease of transition from work to home life. The hooked rug pieces are made from recycled clothing, which is readily available from the many “paca” (second-hand clothing) stores which are located in towns and villages throughout Guatemala.

Preparation: We typically start sixth months prior. The artists work on their pieces at home and meet with their rug hooking groups once or twice per week, then deliver products once per month to the office. Before the products are shipped to IFAM we attach a hang tag which gives information about the artist who made the product and their design inspirations. Unfortunately, this year has been especially challenging given the current political climate and tensions surrounding immigration, which translated into our artists and staff being denied their visas. We’re grateful that we will still be able to participate and exhibit the artists’ beautiful work, but disappointed that the artists themselves cannot be there to represent their communities and Guatemala.

Looking forward to: We feel honored and are excited to participate in IFAM every year, but this year is especially exciting as Multicolores has been selected as one of six Community Impact finalists in this year’s IFAM One World Awards. This award celebrates those artists who have made a difference through their creative vision, community support and artistic excellence.

Phoebe Lasoi, Kitengela Women Olmakau Cooperative
Kitengela, Kenya

Craft: We have 50 palm leaf, bead, and fabric baskets; 100 pairs of beaded sandals; 87 unique beaded necklaces; and 15 traditional beaded belts. In Nairobi, we sell much smaller and cheaper items to tourists, but for this collection, we have tried to be more innovative and daring.

Preparation: We applied in October 2018 and learned of our acceptance in January 2019. We have been working non-stop since then to prepare enough items for sale, to get our visas—which was very difficult in Kenya—and to prepare ourselves for the very long journey to Santa Fe from Nairobi. Our Olmakau women’s Beading Collective consists of 24 women and myself. I work as the designer, but then each woman adds her own unique touch or design ideas. We had to ship our wares two months ago, so from January to March it was a race against time.

Looking forward to: We have never shown our work anywhere, but we are aware that IFAM is the largest such market in the world and it is a huge honor to have been selected. The scope of the market, the number of visitors and the incredible training and attention that artists receive are beyond compare. There is a genuine effort to ensure that artists take back not only money but a much broader understanding of the global market and their place in it. If we can make income from IFAM, that will have far-reaching impact on our community.

International Folk Art Market Alumni Who Inspire

A Dinka corset created by The Roots Project: Juba, South Sudan. (Photo courtesy of IFAM)
Pottery by South African ceramist, Jabulile (Jabu) Nala. (Photo courtesy of IFAM)
François Fresnais. (Photo courtesy of the artist and the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market)
Painting by Cuban artist, Carlos Alberto Cáceres Valladares. (Photo: Lyn Avery courtesy of IFAM)
Hammered silver vessel by Ignacio Punzo Angel from Mexico. (Photo: John Bigelow Taylor courtesy of IFAM)
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