Next Stop New Mexico

I have just booked my last buying trip of the year to New Mexico, one of my favorite shopping destinations, and I can barely wait to go.  If you have visited The Field Museum, you have hopefully gotten to see our amazing Native American collection, which inspires us work hard to offer an equally outstanding products in the stores.  All of our Native American arts and crafts are hand selected by me personally, which means that I travel to the Southwest at least three times a year in order to keep our assortment fresh and exciting.  I never know what I am going to find on these trips.  Of course there are certain stops that I always make, and visits with artists and traders who are reliable sources for fetishes, kachinas, jewelry and pots.  But serendipity always plays a part in these trips, and you never know who you are going to meet.  On my way out to Zuni I usually stop at the Laguna Pueblo to support the local economy by getting some snacks and gas for the car. It’s also a great place to start to make the transition from my urban rush-rush mindset to a more relaxed approach that I find  key for successful buying in the Southwest. I like to visit the mission church there, which was built by the Franciscans and completed on July 4, 1699, and which has a fantastic blend of Christianity and native religious images. 

A few years ago my husband came along on the trip with me, and I was excited to stop and show him the church, which I thought his artist’s eye would appreciate.  We looked around for a while, and then headed back to the car, and for some reason I decided that I would try one more time to see if anyone was home at the house down the road from the mission where an old “Pottery for Sale” sign hung.  As luck would have it, the front door to the house was open, so when I knocked a lovely woman came to the door.  It just so happened that it was All Saints Day, and in that tradition, she had set out an enormous spread of food that was meant to be shared with anyone who stopped at her house.  She invited us in, and suddenly there we were sitting on her kitchen floor, having a wonderful unexpected feast in the middle of the day, and listening to stories about life in Laguna.  She told us about walking for miles across open land and searching for the right kind of clay to make her pots.  She mourned the fact that time-honored arts and crafts were not being passed down to the young people, and she wondered what would become of spirit of tradition that had lived in the pottery.  We left with full bellies and warm hearts, but sadly without pots, since she had long since stopped making things to sell. Getting the chance to stop and consider the life of this artist was a treasured experience to have had though, and it helped to underscore the importance of understanding the work that flows from the land, through history, and out through the hands of present day people.  Thanks to the U.S. Parks Department for this archival photo of the church door.  More on New Mexico soon....