Santa Fe's IFAM: keeping the craft world in motion…
Words Sam Walton, Mark Hooper and Nell Card
Photographs Christopher Sturman
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe will once again bring together a global audience in celebration of artisanal crafts – with an eye to the future. The folk revival starts here…
Since we launched Hole & Corner five years ago, one of the most gratifying elements of working and collaborating with the artist and maker community has been their openness and willingness to collaborate, share and encourage.
There is perhaps no better example than the International Folk Art Market (IFAM) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which last year attracted over 160 artists from 53 countries – with 2,000 volunteers welcoming 25,000 visitors – at the site of the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum on Museum Hill. Tickets for the 15th edition have just gone live on their site. CEO Jeff Snell remarks that, when IFAM began, ‘They had no idea what was being set in motion… it isn’t just about preservation of folk art through retail. There’s so much more happening here.’ Asked to put a name to the phenomenon they have uncovered, he settles on ‘social entrepreneurship’.
Here, potters from South Africa rub shoulders with jewellers from Laos and weavers from Colombia… not to mention several familiar faces to Hole & Corner. For Mumbai-based textile and natural dye maker Rupa Trivedi, the appeal is simple: ‘There is so much enthusiasm to the work of the artisans – to all of us: that traditions need not die.’
This sense of keeping heritage craft alive is one that Colombian basket maker Luis Lizandro Rodriguez represents: following the skills passed down from his grandfather in knowing how to gather and prepare guarumo palm fibres in the Amazonian jungle and weave them into traditional concave balay baskets.
Likewise, speaking in our Nest Issue, Mexican weaver Porfirio Gutiérrez explains how his work pays homage to the ancient Zapotec heritage and culture. ‘What we are doing is continuing an artform,’ he says. ‘Each piece we create pays homage to our ancestors’ artistry. In that sense our work is living art.’ The same is true in the supposedly ‘developed’ world of rich Western nations too: French basket maker Blaise Cayol remarks how the endless quest for the new has meant our own native skills are now becoming a rarity. ‘Someone who knits, turns wood or makes brooms, like braiding wicker, is now something extraordinary,’ he says.
Which isn’t to say that IFAM is just about preserving traditions in aspic. Carla Fernández, a Mexican textile designer, stresses the importance of forward-thinking innovation in her work, but still felt the same sense of warmth and encouragement. ‘We didn’t know how to approach the American market: it’s very hard and expensive. But you come to the Folk Art Market, and they are willing to share their knowledge.’
Most importantly, the disparate communities benefit from the exposure and commerce provided by IFAM. The appetite and enthusiasm for handmade goods shown by the thousands of visitors flocking to Museum Hill is an affirmation that there is a sizeable and established audience who are appreciative of objects with a story behind them; who want to meet the artists and in turn put money into deserving communities from all around the world.