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Tradition and innovation in Santa Fe

SANTE FE, N.M. - A spectrum of traditional and contemporary artwork representing generations of creativity, an increase in the number of accepted artists, new events and a new logo for the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA) captured the theme of this year's Santa Fe Indian Market, "Tradition & Innovation."

Nine hundred and seventy artists representing more than 80 federally recognized tribes were accepted into Indian Market, with a total of 71 artists participating for the first time.

"It's a blast. I didn't imagine the excitement," said Samuel Manymules, Navajo. This year's event was Manymules' first experience with Indian Market and he took home a top award for his cedar water pot - an Excellence in Utilitarian Vessels.

"It's a mile marker me, for my tribe - the Din? tribe, the Navajo," said the artist adding the award gives him a lot of encouragement.

Manymules said that although he'd been doing pottery for 15 years, he'd been staying in the background, learning and watching, citing renowned potter Lonnie Vigil as one of his inspirations. Though Manymules works traditionally, digging his clay and slip, his skills were not handed down from his relations.

"Nope, it's not a family tradition. I learned from books. I go to the library and I pursue it. I was determined. Also, I look at pottery shards. There's a lot of them where I live at and I study them to find out how they're built."

He said all of his tools are hand-made. "I don't buy nothing that I use, I like to do it the old-fashioned way," Manymules said with an emphasis on old, "but sort of ? you can call it contemporary, up-to-date, modern intertwined with the old."

Manymules explained he uses ancient methods to fashion a very thin-walled pot but in the traditional Navajo form. He may add a triangular "spirit band" or other decorative motif around the neck or fluting around the edges.

Finding his own style and technique was at first frustrating but now he said he has his own secret recipe for clay and his own methods of firing.

"The special thing about it to me is I use the four elements: the earth, the water, the fire which is life and the air. You put it all together and you get something special. It comes alive, right?"

Although this is her first Best of Show for Indian Market, Lu Ann Tafoya, Pojoaque/Santa Clara Pueblo, has been recognized for her large polished jars and the high quality of her carving at other venues such as the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show in 1999 where she walked away with Best of Show in Traditional Pottery.

Unassuming and speaking in a low voice, Tafoya said she was thrilled with the award. "I'm very happy."

An eighth-generation potter and the daughter of well-known potter Margaret Tafoya, she is passing her skills and knowledge on to her son, Daryl Whitegeese and daughter, Michele Tapia-Browning who also participated in Indian Market.

"It's kinda hard to describe, she's been working with pottery for such a long time. She has awards from previous shows, but for her to have such a high honor it's hard to describe. I was very happy when I heard. She really deserves it, she has beautiful work," said Whitegeese, Pojoaque Pueblo, who was given a top award from the Indian Arts Fund for Excellence in Traditional Arts and shared a booth with his mom.

Tafoya also gathers her materials in the traditional way and has been working with pottery since age 12, when she first started polishing pots and says she takes great pleasure in her work.

"I really enjoy it - you have to enjoy what you're doing and putting your whole heart in working with the pottery. The same way - that's how it's going to come out good."

Norma Howard, Choctaw/Chickasaw, has been painting with watercolor for nine years and said she chose her medium because the Ben Franklin Store, in the small town where she lives, only sold the little pallets of water color sets - the basic red, green, yellow and blue with those thick brushes.

At first, watercolor thwarted her efforts at creating pieces deep and lush in color.

"It gets muddy," Howard said explaining that layers of water color only soaked into the poster board she used to use. Her solution was to conceive her own unique stroke, a variation on pointillism and crosshatch.

"It's like small brush strokes, I call it a basket weave strokes because my family does baskets. It's a lot of different directions. Sometimes I put little designs in it. Nobody knows that but me. Some people call it pointillism or something but I don't do dots. If you look at it real close they're not dots."

Howard's three-dimensional, rich work portrays stories handed down from her family, memories of an earlier time in this country and personal memories from her childhood and was awarded an Excellence in Drawing Technique for the use of materials and draftsmanship. Her work also won "Best of Division" and "Best Traditional" at the 1998 Santa Fe Indian Market

A self-taught artist, she said learns by looking and drawing; penciling in each piece first. She recently illustrated "Walking the Choctaw Road: Stories from Red People Memory," published in August and has had her work in other books.

Other events during Indian Market included SWAIA's Fellowship and Lifetime Achievement Honoring Reception, held for the first time at the New Mexico Governor's Mansion, hosted by Gov. and Mrs. Bill Richardson. A live auction, a film festival, special artist demonstrations, fashion shows and musical performances kept the large crowds busy throughout the weekend.

SWAIA also unveiled a new logo, designed by Hopi-Tewa painter/sculptor Dan Namingha. The logo is a swirl, a reminder of the sipapu, a symbol for the center of the Earth and the point of emergence into this world for Hopi people.