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Santa Fe's Native American art market is cultural feast

Aug 21, 2011, 1:07 p.m.

The Market is one of Santa Fe's most profitable weekends. A recent Association survey found that the Market feeds up to $100 million into the city's economy over the weekend, not to mention directly into the pockets of Native artists.

For Santo Domingo pueblo potter Robert Tenorio, Market earnings make up half of his annual income.

His stable of collectors return year after year for the hand crafted pottery. One collector from Florida has 60 of his pots and comes every year for more; another Santa Fe family has a "Robert Tenorio" room in their house, dedicated solely to his work, he said.

Tenorio's success comes from years of building a clientele. Now 60, he's been selling his pottery at the Market since he was ten years old. Before that, he joined his mother who came to sell jewelry. Tenorio has an exceptional number of first prize entries over the years -- "enough blue ribbons to make a quilt - a whole King sized bed!"

His notoriety is also due to his dedication to traditional methods and materials learned long ago from his grandmother.

"My pots can still look old, have the thousand year look, because I use grandmother's methods," he said.

The Indian Market has evolved and grown over the years -- this year for the first time Native Alaskan tribes are included. Throughout the weekend, there are vibrant Native costumes, stunning jewelry displays, feathered ceremonial headdresses, drumming, singing and native dances, preceded by a series of Native films, lectures and visual arts events.

DeArmond Williams, 43, a pueblo Indian raised east of Santa Fe who used to work at the Market, flew in from North Carolina to see old friends.

"As Native People a lot of friends are far away. This is a gathering of all those people," he said.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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