By Stephanie Pearson
October 07, 2014
Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc / Alamy

A city of artists, Santa Fe is a Mecca for shoppers on a pilgrimage for one-of-a-kind handmade pieces. But to call these works merely “crafts” doesn’t do them nearly enough justice, considering that most are based on traditions that have been handed down for centuries and hold deep significance in their respective cultures. And while many of the crafts you’ll find in Santa Fe are steeped in Native American culture, there are many more that have originated in other parts of the world and found their way to Santa Fe via a creative shopkeeper who likes to travel or the International Folk Art Market, an annual summer gathering of 150 master folk artists from 60 countries around the world. So whether you’re in search of a Laguna Pueblo kachina doll, a painted pewter Easter mouse from Germany, an intricate Day of the Dead rubber stamp, or inspiration from contemporary artists in the form of ceramics, jewelry, hand-blown glass or other, you’ll find memorable treasures here, especially in the following places.

Native American Vendors Program, Palace of the Governors

The finest New Mexico crafts have been sold right here, on the north side of the Plaza under the Palace of the Governors portal, almost every day for more than six decades. The program, which requires that the 69 participants belong to a registered tribe and stamp their work with a personal signature, ensures that the work—whether it’s a ceramic pot, a sterling silver bangle, or a kachina doll—is legitimate and authentic to the artist and his or her tribe.

Santa Fe Railyard Artisan’s Market

Every Sunday in the Railyard Farmer’s Market space, local artists come together in a venue that normally houses green chile, goat cheese, and giant tomatoes, to sell everything from hand-painted gourds to musical instruments to blown glass to jewelry to pottery and more. With no special emphasis on tribe or tradition, this market is a melting pot of contemporary artisans.

Susan’s Christmas Shop

Every square inch of this fantastically tiny space is filled with delicate ornaments and holiday-specific decorations. Some depict native New Mexican traditions, while others, like pewter Easter mice from Germany, celebrate an entirely different celebration. My favorite is the red chile ornament that a local artist transforms into Santa Claus.

Museum of International Folk Art

Time your visit to coincide with the annual International Folk Art Market every July where you can buy thousands of intricate handmade pieces from 60 countries around the world. Or, failing that, sign up to make your own crafts. In the past, museum classes have included lessons in everything from Japanese kite making to Brazilian dolls, and animal masks.

Guadaloupe’s Fun Rubber Stamps

This store requires you to buy art in order to make more art. The rubber stamps at this shop are the most intricate you’ll ever find and include everything from Day of the Dead and Virgin de Guadeloupe stamps to Man in the Moon stamps to Southwestern-themed stamps by artists Willard Clark, Jay Oliver, and Penny Baker.