Santa Fe, New Mexico, the “City Different”, has long been known for its Pueblo-style architecture and hotbed of creativity. And, on my most recent visit, I truly appreciated Santa Fe for these very things, especially its southwestern craftsmanship, unique furniture and handmade jewelry.
A Mecca for Artists
In 2005, Santa Fe was designated a UNESCO Creative City, the first US city to be so honored and currently one of only a handful of Creative Cities in the world.
Founded by Spanish colonists in 1610, Santa Fe (“Holy Faith” in Spanish) is known as the oldest state capital in the US and the oldest city in New Mexico. The city and its surrounding areas have a high concentration of artists who have come to capture the natural beauty of the landscape. One of the best known New Mexico-based artists is of course Georgia O’Keefe.
Artists began to settle in the opening years of the twentieth century, discovering a “mother load” of images, aesthetics and amenities. The main draw was the landscape, a matchless blend of shape, color and light. These artists were charmed by the native inhabitants, who had lived in the surrounding pueblos for centuries. Their culture was beautiful to see and to paint, and their own artistic heritage was evident in pottery, weaving and architecture.
A more recent society, the Spanish colonists who had settled the area in the sixteenth century, had brought in their own European traditions of furniture, wood carving, embroidery, tinwork and painted embellishments.
Finally, there were the Taos Founders who had arrived at the end of the nineteenth century and formed a cohesive group of educated Easterners. They proceeded the early Santa Fe artists by only a couple of decades but in many ways, their arrivals overlapped. There was a cultural interchange between the village of Taos (a tiny, remote village 70 miles north of Santa Fe) and the provincial capital of Santa Fe. Both groups consisted largely of artists who already had a considerable reputation before they came West.
I was sure to check out Canyon Road, the street with the highest concentration of art galleries in the city. It’s a major destination for international collectors, tourists and locals. In fact, over 1 million people visit Santa Fe and its galleries every year. The galleries showcase a wide array of contemporary, Southwestern, indigenous American and experimental art in addition to Russian, Taos Masters and Native American pieces, making Santa Fe one of the largest and most important art markets in the country.
In addition to its art, Santa Fe has some amazing furniture stores. Everything from turquoise in-laid tables and bowls to Navajo rugs and blankets, intricately carved doors, colorful hand-painted pottery and even antiques from around the world. All unique, hand-crafted pieces that left me wishing I had a semi-truck or trailer to bring all of these wonderful finds back with me to Tahoe.
I would be remiss not to mention the dozens of jewelry shops and street peddlers selling the most beautiful turquoise jewelry. Giant, over-sized pieces. Santa Fe doesn’t do dainty when it comes to jewelry. Heavy necklaces, 5” thick bracelets, rings that cover knuckle to knuckle and earrings that rest on your shoulders. All of the utmost quality from local materials, and in most cases, made by local artisans.
Not to Miss
- Cowboys and Indians Fine Furniture and Art (turquoise in-laid furniture)
- Santa Kilim (antique furniture)
- Secret and Sons (antique furniture)
- Sequoia (modern rustic furniture)
- Divino (turquoise in-laid wood bowls)
- Ortega’s (jewlery)
- Sorrel Sky Gallery (art and sculpture)