Mother and son Carmen and Vincent Campos inspire each other


Carmen felt drawn to tinwork when she first saw it. “My grandmother had a tin matchbox near her fireplace,” she recalls. “We’d just built our home, and I wanted to adorn it with tinwork.” She largely taught herself the process. Her signature is combining tinwork with colcha: needlework created with hand-spun, hand-dyed wool. The combination is a natural fit, since her mother taught her to embroider at age 7.

Whereas other tin workers patina their material, Carmen prefers a finish with extra pop. “The pieces I create are really shiny,” she explains. “I don’t oxidize any of them.” Named one of Southwest Contemporary magazine’s “12 New Mexico Artists to Know in 2019,” Vincent uses bright colors and contemporary elements and references to give


his works their pop. The saints’ faces are sometimes cartoony; one might hold a bag of Wonder Bread. Although the imagery doesn’t adhere to tradition, his materials do. He makes the glue for his boards from rabbit skins. For pigment, he gathers bright green tierra verde from Santa Ana Pueblo, and he mixes grain alcohol and sap from piñon trees to make varnishes. “When you collect your own pigments,” he says, “you see how it grinds out.”

“He paints with his paints,” says Carmen. “I paint with my colcha.”

“My friends may not know about retablos or Spanish Market,” says Vincent, who works in the weapons division at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “But by creating these innovative images, it does move [the art] forward and keeps interest in it alive.”

“Sometimes I’ll say it’s a little too far out for me,” Carmen says, “but I value working alongside my son.”

They have collaborated on some pieces. “The tin complements the retablos really well,” Vincent observes. “So, for the person who buys it, they’re getting both our talents.”

“I think he and I agree that the best way to understand the culture and faith is through art,” says Carmen. “He and I both try to do that.”

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society juried Carmen and Vincent into Traditional Spanish Market in 2016. They’ve been participating since and are among the market." many families with several generations of artists in the

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Santa Fe New Mexican