A first time for everything

New-to-market artists bring a wide range of traditional crafts




Santa Fe New Mexican


A First Time For Everything

The International Folk Art Market is glorious with color, culture, tradition and innovation. Check out the dazzling ceremonial cloaks — red, white and black and covered with feathers — that tell deep stories about their makers’ Maori culture. “The one that I usually go toward is a diamond pattern called patiki, which means flounder fish,” said artist Karley Brown. “When flounder were around, everyone could be fed, so it means hope for better times and abundance.” A favorite design of her friend and co-creator Kapotahi Tuahine-Frederikson has little triangles stacked on top of one another. It’s called niho taniwha, which translates as “the monster’s teeth.” It can represent guardianship, leadership or lines of descent. The two women from New Zealand now live in the United States — Brown in Colorado and Tuahine-Frederikson in Arkansas. Working under the name Aho Amerika, they weave both independently and collaboratively. Aho Amerika comes to IFAM this year for the first time. Their traditional technique of finger-twining cotton threads is not unique to Maori culture, Brown said, “but we’re one of the only ones that don’t use a loom.” The feather embellishment is a recent innovation. After COVID, the two started using feathers, horsehair, goat hair and wool. The elaborate pieces take anywhere from five weeks to eight months to complete. “I think of it as traditional apparel and also as an art form,” Brown said. Her main focus now is teaching others how to weave feather cloaks online. She said, “In COVID time, we put together a curriculum, mainly through Zoom and Facebook Messenger. That’s when Aho Amerika came about. The word aho means to connect — also cord or string. There are other meanings, but at the end of the day, it means we’re connecting people through our art.” Tuahine-Frederikson also makes jewelry. Her materials are pounamu (New Zealand nephrite jade), waxed cord and local American beeswax. Her pendants have shapes symbolic of motifs in the Maori belief system. “At the Folk Art Market, I’ll have a couple of cloaks to sell, also headbands and little ornamental shadowbox cloaks,” Brown said. “Kapotahi won’t attend, but I am bringing one of her cloaks, a full-size adult cloak that is quite stunning.” Another first-timer is Djamol Temirov from Bukhara, Uzbekistan — a city of domes. “My workshop is conveniently situated under one of the trading domes of Bukhara,” he said in an email exchange. “We call them toq — it’s a dome structure over the intersection of two or more busy streets; they served as traffic lights in Bukhara. Ours is Toqi Sarrafon.” In the old days, Toqi Sarrafon provided space for moneychangers and moneylenders, but today it’s home to craft shops. There, Temirov restores old carpets and gives them second lives as one-of-a-kind bags, door hangings, hats, hanging cases and amulets. His neighbors in the trading dome are miniatures painters, suzani embroiderers and clothes designers. He finds influences and inspiration in books, magazines, historical films, TV series, museum exhibitions and old photographs. One of his favorite pieces has a patchwork design recalling the old carpetmaking schools of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and the Caucasus. “My second favorite work is called torva, which is a traditional hanging bag in Central Asian homes,” he said. “In addition to having artistic value, such bags have functionality as well. These are usually keepsakes for dowry items such as mirrors, combs and books. I twist the traditional design by adding multiple pockets and thus make these hanging bags more functional.” He added, “I listen to my materials while they are guiding me — what to cut and what color to add. I also follow my traditional eye of seeing things. I follow the flow of the material and its beauty.” Temirov said his small business, now 22 years old, will pass to his son when he retires. Another new IFAM artist in the textile realm is Maki Aizawa, who works with her mother, Tsuyo Onodera, a master kimono maker from Sendai, Japan. Their specialties include haori jackets, made using vintage kimono materials and traditional persimmon dyes. In a months-long process called kakishibu, the cloth is dyed with fermented persimmon juice. Then the fabric is exposed to the winter sun when snow is on the ground. The direct sunlight, amplified by its reflection from the snow, deepens the colors through oxidation. Aizawa, who lives in Sonoma, California, and her mother bring haori jackets and other garments to the market. None of these should end up as “art” pieces in frames on walls, she said. “No, they are all meant to be practical. I want everything to be touched and used. Every label is handwritten by me. If it’s a vintage fabric, I write what region it’s from and what kind of weaving.” Their IFAM booth is shared with Tomomi Kamoshita of Tokyo, who does kintsugi. This is a traditional means of repairing ceramics using gold powder and sumac sap. In Kamoshita’s modernized version, she employs brass powder mixed with urushi, a Japanese lacquer. “In 2011, when the huge earthquake and tsunami happened in my hometown, Tomomi and I both began this type of work,” Aizawa said. “There were many broken pieces, so that was definitely a way to do artistic expression in mending.” A broken bowl repaired via kintsugi possesses a precious “scar.” Artists also make kintsugi art pieces with ceramic fragments, adding sea glass decoratively. “It’s more about the personal piece,” Aizawa said. “If something is very special, people come to ask me to fix it, or they come for advice so they can mend it themselves.” With COVID restrictions in early 2020, Aizawa and Kamoshita initiated private lessons via Zoom, teaching kintsugi to people all over the world, “mending together, feeding the connection when isolation was happening for everyone,” Aizawa said. During the market, she gives kamiko demonstrations with Onodera and kintsugi demonstrations with Kamoshita. In West Bengal, India, Kalam Patua works as postmaster of the city of Rampurhat. He is also an artist, making updated versions of Kalighat art. Traditionally, painters in Kalighat made pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses, which they sold as souvenirs to pilgrims visiting the Kalighat Kali Temple. Patua works in similar religious themes, but he also deals with issues of contemporary life, including violence against women. An autobiographical series depicts a balding man at work, signifying the Indian man caught between the traditional and the modern. Patua uses watercolors rather than the thick paints used by traditional Kalighat painters. “In 1987, after several years of painting scrolls, I learnt about Kalighat painting and its decline,” he wrote in his IFAM application. “I was struck by the clean lines and strong compositions of this genre. I decided to teach myself with books and museum visits.” He continued, “Making art has been my refuge from my hectic government job and my responsibilities as the head of my family. My income from my art has enabled me to educate my children well and provide a good home for my family.” Painting is also the artistic realm of Angelina Quic Ixtamer de Coche and Antonio Coche Mendoza. They use oil paints to render scenes of daily life, the coffee harvest, the cultivation of corn, the cutting of cotton, women weavers at work and other traditions, landscapes and customs of their community, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. This is a Tzutujil Maya community on the shore of Lake Atitlán. San Juan has long been known for its beautiful weavings and embroidered huipiles (loose-fitting tunics worn by Indigenous women in Mexico and Central America). In recent decades, 2D art has been added to San Juan’s cityscape. Murals, some financed by the municipal government during COVID to aid artists, fill the streets. In 1990 Quic Ixtamer de Coche began learning to paint from her husband, Coche Mendoza. Other women in the community challenged her, saying that painting was men’s work, but she kept going. Now the two head a family studio of self-taught painters. Coche Mendoza was the city’s first painter to work in oils on canvas. Quic Ixtamer de Coche at first loved painting scenes of the market with its gorgeous fruits and vegetables. But one day in 1993, she and her husband hiked up a mountain high above San Juan, and she found inspiration for a distinctive new series. “It was then that the idea occurred to me: to paint from this different perspective,” looking down on the city and people. Early on, Quic Ixtamer de Coche called her works “squished compositions,” but she changed the description to vista de pájaro: a bird’s-eye view. Another market first-timer is Hannele Köngas, who creates beautiful wool textiles in the seaside city of Turku, Finland. Products she will bring to IFAM are one-colored throws, striped seafarers’ blankets and bags. In her IFAM application, Köngas wrote that in the early 20th century, older people in the Finnish archipelago used striped sheets of wool. That’s what she had in mind when she started weaving her seafarers’ blankets. A model for her handbags was found in the Vikingage village of Hedeby in Denmark. Sami people around Scandinavia kept such bags in use until a century ago, she said. She added, “I come originally from Lapland with a little bit of Sami blood.” Her grandfather and uncles were reindeer keepers. Köngas formerly had a career as a teacher, with a focus on Iron Age and medieval textile techniques. “As a young textile student I found an old piece of wool fabric and began to dream about wavy weaves, bubble weaves. Since early 2000 I have had my own weaving studio with dye kitchen.” She buys wool from the organic farm Herrakunnan Lammas and loves using wool from endangered Kainuu gray sheep. After weaving, she dyes using woad (which she cultivates), madder, weld, tansy, nettle, onion skins, and cochineal. The 2022 International Folk Art Market includes 164 artists. Thirty-eight are here for the first time. Paul Weideman retired in 2020 after more than two decades with the “Santa Fe New Mexican.” He is now a part-time writer, and the author of the 2019 book “Architecture Santa Fe: A Guidebook.”