Randy Trujillo creates at the intersection of commerce and passion


Like many, if not most, of the artists exhibiting at Traditional Spanish Market, Randy Trujillo has been on a collision course with heritage arts since childhood. As a kid growing up in Santa Fe, he carved images of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Guadalupe as gifts for his mother. Later, the selftaught artist carved cabinets, gates, closets and other works in wood in his father’s one-car garage. Although he attended Traditional Spanish Market in his 20s, he wasn’t yet ready to apply as an artist.

e used his talents building houses with his dad’s construction company, and he founded his own woodworking business in the early 2000s. It nearly bottomed out when the 2008 recession took hold. Slowly, he got back on his feet with Corrales-based Spanish Traditions. He runs the business with his two sons, Manuel and Andrew. Spanish Traditions found its niche making high-end, one-of-a-kind furniture, with business coming entirely through word-of-mouth and mostly for clients in Santa Fe.

Fate then brought him to legendary retablo artist Arlene Cisneros Sena — a market artist since 1992 and winner of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society’s Masters Award for Lifetime Achievements. The retablo artist contracted Trujillo to build her a house and studio. “Her whole house is a collection,” recalls Trujillo, waving at his own collection of santos and retablos made mostly by market artists and covering almost an entire wall of his Rio Rancho home. “I’d tell her, I want to do this someday.”

Real recognizing real, Sena encouraged Trujillo to go for it. To his surprise, he was accepted into Spanish Market — on Valentine’s Day no less. “I was ecstatic,” he says.

Now taking part in his 10th market, Trujillo is never one to rest on his laurels. He has won two awards: an honorable mention in 2018 and a first-place Leonora Curtin Paloheimo Award in 2019 for Trastero del Sol.

He’s always pushing himself to learn and do more, including taking on other mediums. The jury has admitted him into the market with tinwork, and now he wants to get in with bultos — three-dimensional carved and painted figures of saints.

“I did some saints as a kid, but I didn’t have the right tools or the right skills at that time,” says Trujillo. “I was doubtful. And I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment.”

He found confidence with Caja de Las Cruces (“Box of Crosses”), a blanket box, his first furniture piece juried into the market. Trujillo built it with many of his grandfather’s original tools. The title also came from his grandfather, whose name was Cruz. While working on the piece, he could feel something from above — call it God, call it his grandfather’s spirit.

It’s a sensation he gets often when he’s working. When he’s building something related to business, he has a business mentality. On Saturdays, which he reserves for his art, his mind-set shifts. “That’s my meditation. Especially when I carve,” he says.

It’s a flow state he especially experiences in his studio, which he found on Craigslist. Previously, all his studios were in industrial areas. This one had been part of a school. “It has a whole different vibe,” Trujillo says. “And it shows in your work. My pieces are more calm and more at ease.”

They’re also, like Spanish Market, steeped in tradition. After coming up with an idea, “I’ll do a mundane sketch and then change as I’m building,” says Trujillo. He often consults his “bible”: New Mexican Furniture, 1600–1940: The Origins, Survival, and Revival of Furniture Making in the Hispanic Southwest by Lonn Taylor and Dessa Bokides. “The piece tells me what it wants to do, what it wants to be. But tradition is huge. That’s my main goal. I don’t push it where it’s not traditional anymore.”

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Santa Fe New Mexican