Shopping the summer ethnic markets of Santa Fe

Taxco Silver from Maestros de Taxco

Vintage Taxco Silver from Maestros de Taxco

If you are a collector or just want to decorate your home or yourself with authentic ethnic pieces, summer is the time to visit Santa Fe. In just two days we saw such marvels as Native carved ivory from Nome, Alaska, Saltillo Mexican blankets, vintage Bakelite jewelry, vintage Sterling jewelry from Taxco and amazing indescribable antiques from around the world.

When shopping for ethnic art, jewelry and decorator items in Santa Fe, schedule your trip during one of the major shows. Or, if you are a real bargain hunter and know what you are looking for head south to the Flea at the Downs. You’ll never know what you’ll find.

Whitehawk Ethnographic  Art Show
Whitehawk Shows have been bringing ethnic art to Santa Fe for thirty years. This August,  the show was at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.  You’ll find over 150 dealers featuring Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, African, Oriental, Indonesian and other ethnographic art from around the world. An amazing selection of jewelry, devotional pieces, furniture, rugs, baskets, pottery, textiles, paintings and much, much more.

Saltillo Mexican Textiles from John W. Pyson of Salida, CO

Saltillo Mexican Textiles from John W. Pyson of Salida, CO

The booths are artfully arranged to present the treasures in the most attractive, shoppable formats. And, with the booths, come the experts! I was impressed with the quality of the dealers. Most of them were experts in their fields and many had written books on the items they were selling.

Collectors, catalogs in hand, knew exactly which dealers they wanted to visit and what items they were looking for. While many of these highly collectible one-of-a-kind pieces were priced in the tens of thousands of dollars, there were also beautiful silver vintage jewelry pieces for several hundred dollars.

I especially enjoyed perusing Maestros de Taxco who specialized in vintage Mexican silver. I saw pieces there that rivaled those at the recent Folk Art Museum silver exhibit.

Bakelite from Route 66 West of Palm Springs

Bakelite from Route 66 West of Palm Springs

Author Matt Burkholz of Route 66 West jewelry (Palm Springs) is an authority on vintage Bakelite. The collection at the show contained the beautiful and the unusual. His book, The Bakelite Collection, is a fabulous reference for the collector or anyone fascinated with vintage Bakelite.  

If you want to learn about Saltillo Mexican textiles, stop by John Pyson’s booth. John is from Salida, Colorado and brought a colorful collection of beautifully woven textiles. He took time to educate me on Saltillo textiles and told me that he, too, was authoring a book.

You’ll be charged an entrance fee to the Whitehawk shows. The $10 for a one-day admission is money well spent. You’ll get to see treasures from around the world and talk with expert dealers who are more than happy to talk with you about some amazing collections. Watch for the Whitehawk Antique Shows just prior to Indian Market each year.

The Santa Fe Show – Objects of Art
At the same time the Whitehawk shows were going on at the Convention Center, there was another equally interesting show opening at El Museo Cultural in the Santa
Tribal Arts from David A. Cassera

Tribal Arts from David A. Cassera

Fe Railyard. The Santa Fe Show – Objects of Art had a much broader focus than the Whitehawk Ethnographic show. Yes, there were fascinating dealers bringing antique art treasures from all over the world, but there were also galleries showing more modern “objects” of art. This boutique event  features an elite selection of more than 60 vendors presenting outstanding examples of art and design in a wide range of media and historic periods including the work of living artists.
The emphasis throughout the show is on the aesthetic importance and design significance of the works presented by galleries, artists and designers. Such noted galleries as Huber Primitive Art, specialists in the finest pre-Columbian materials; Economos Works of Art, one of America’s most-noted Native American galleries; and the well known western art expert, Robert L. Parsons Fine Art, set the standard for a show that will include objects, textiles, jewelry, antiques, furnishing and decorative arts from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Also prevalent at the event were tribal arts, more vintage Mexican silver and some notable local Native American jewelry dealers. 

Ivory Carving from Maruskiya's of Nome - Alaskan Native Art

Ivory Carving from Maruskiya's of Nome - Alaskan Native Art

Coming from Nome Alaska, representing Maruskiya’s of Nome was Andrew James who was fascinating to talk with about Alaskan Native art. The collection of ivory sculptures, carvings and masks was the best I have seen outside of Alaska. The beautiful pieces will make you want to start an Alaskan Native art collection! Maruskiya’s will also be represented at the El Dorado Hotel Pavillion  during Indian Market. A “must-see” in my book!

Cassera Tribal Arts was another fascinating stop. David Cassera had some great antique tribal items on display but what caught my eye was the monumental African totem with a monumental story to match about headhunters, revenge and the afterworld.

Admission to The Santa Fe Show is $12 per person (or $16 for the run of show) with children under 16 admitted free. (Look for coupons in the local paper).

Visitors to downtown Santa Fe can ride the free “Santa Fe Pick-Up” shuttle service to The Santa Fe Show and The New Mexico Rail Runner Express train’s Santa Fe Depot stop is a block from the venue.

Ethnic and Tribal Art at the Santa Fe Flea Market
Once you are armed with knowledge and a thirst for ethnic objects of art, you might consider a visit to the Santa Fe Flea, located at the old Downs Race Track just south of town.

The Santa Fe Flea

The Santa Fe Flea

 You’ll find vendors from Africa, from the Native American reservations and, quite frankly, booths manned by antique dealers who no longer can afford shop rent.

So you can find some quality ethnic items including vintage Mexican silver, vintage Native American jewelry, vintage cowboy boots, home furnishings and decor and a little bit of everything. While some dealers may share some wisdom with you it is a “buyer beware” shopping trip. Before forking over those hundred dollar bills, make sure you know quite a bit about what you are buying.

And, if you are really lucky, you’ll run into a vendor that doesn’t really know what he has in that pile of “old stuff,” and, if you do know your treasures, you can come away with a real deal!

The Flea is a fun place to go on weekends. They have food vendors and musicians. Parking and entrance is Free.  If you are visiting, just pick up the shuttle downtown.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose


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