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Seeking Santa Fe

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Photo: John Huba

Over toward the Inn of the Anasazi, Emma Hope’s big broom skirts are tied down and hung like sausages until someone opens them out to bloom in infinite pleats. I stopped shopping at Mrs. Hope’s when I realized I had 14 skirts, but a German friend has taken up the slack.

Other artists have fun with the old techniques: Les Berryhill from Oklahoma sells mirrors and wooden spoons around whose handles he has strung beads. Austere but merry, they’re Shaker on holiday. On Lincoln Avenue, Mary Tafoya, an original and talented jeweler from Santo Domingo Pueblo, works with inlaid stones, and her exuberant pieces in turquoise and jet and mother-of-pearl are already widely copied.

By eleven, you need food; on the way to brunch at Baleen, at the Inn at Loretto, my head full of wonder at all the patterns I have seen, I stop in the garden of the Loretto Chapel, where a Peruvian named Cirillo Hurtado is selling round yellow gourds engraved with scenes of Peruvian life that unfold like tiny movies: a worker in the fields takes ill, a curandero is found, applies a fat rodent to the man’s chest, slices the rodent open, boils up something (the rodent?), makes the patient drink the brew. The patient, cured, sits up, and the villagers rejoice. A man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, gets into a fight with her father at the feast, reconciliation follows. By the time I sit down to eat huevos rancheros with my friends, all of us bleary from the predawn rendezvous in the plaza, I have a sea of plastic bags around my feet: rattles, dolls, and a pair of storytelling gourds. No turquoise this year: I am about to move away. Turquoise is the introduction, not the farewell.

Joan Juliet Buck is a critic, novelist, and former editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue. Her last report from the Southwest was "Under the Tucson Sun" in T+L’s February 2004 issue.

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