From pottery and sterling jewelry to blankets or ristras, artists share their exquisite work throughout the state. Two of my favorite artistic outposts thrive in or near tiny Chimayo, in northern New Mexico.
Centinela Traditional Arts
During one month each fall, freshly dyed yarn drips from clotheslines near Irvin Trujillos’s dyeing shed at Centinela Traditional Arts, in Chimayo. Brilliant morning light floods the shop, illuminating weaving designs influenced by Mexican serapes and modern styles such as the rug emerging from a massive loom. It has edge bands in peach, rose and aqua and intricate designs at the center.
In the next room striking geometrics decorate brilliant red and powder blue Chimayo coats. Indian Head and buffalo nickels or sterling buttons shine from brightly striped purses, while soft wool/silk jackets and ponchos reflect collaboration with Polo Ralph Lauren.
Irvin greets us with all the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store. Centinela is both playground and workspace – where he shares the art that has infused his spirit with joy and satisfaction for 60 years. His wife, Lisa's, quiet yet welcoming presence provides calm counterpoint to Irvin's ebullient spirit.
Continuing a seven-generation family tradition of weaving Chimayo blankets. Irvin was a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow 2007 and held a 2009 show at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. His wife, Lisa, is expert in Colca – Spanish regional embroidery – and her saltillos, which take three months to complete, sell for more than $15,000.
At Centinela Traditional Arts, the couple showcases their craftsmanship and that of nearly two dozen additional cottage and consignment New Mexico and Rio Grande weavers – most who create art on homemade looms. You’ll find rugs and blankets with striped designs influenced by Mexican serapes, and modern styles with bands of peach, rose, and aqua.
But what you’ll likely remember most about visiting here is the Trujillos' warm welcome and passion for the art they display.
Theresa's Art Gallery
Theresa Montoya was working as a medical assistant, when she decided to open Theresa’s Art Gallery instead, nearly 40 years ago. At first, her Southwest oil paintings, and retablos crafted by her husband, Richard, completely filled the space.
As the business grew, their art began appearing in churches, museums and galleries across the nation, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Their children have also won awards at the Spanish Market and have pieces in the Children’s Permanent Art Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.
Their next step was to bring in the work of other artists. Today a small sign along Chimayo Hwy No. 76 directs visitors to the gallery and studio. Inside the bright and airy room Theresa wears a hot pink shirt, turquoise bead necklace and broad smile. A treasure trove of New Mexican art surrounds her, from handcrafted wood carvings and weavings to exquisite tin pieces.
The state’s largest collection of retablos includes Richard’s whimsical riff on classic retablos, honoring the Beatles. Pottery abounds, including highly coveted pieces from Santa Clara Pueblo. The most famous and most collectible pottery in the United States, it’s also the most expensive
Every piece of pottery has a creation and design story, which Montoya describes in great detail. "We get people here from all over the world, to buy this pottery," Theresa says. “I don’t have overhead and I'm a small businesswoman so Native Americans sell me pieces for up to less than half of what they sell for, in Santa Fe.”
Note: As a travel writer, I received accommodations, entry fees, etc. while visiting this area, in advance of reviews and/or profiles. I do my best to remain impartial and offer full disclosure to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
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