Going to Market

The only direction that remained open was behind me. I wriggled through gaps in the crowd until I found myself against the railing at the back of the stage. I was safe.

When my heart rate slowed down to normal and my surroundings took on detail, I noticed that the railing marked the boundary between me and a ramp to the stage. A photographer was setting up right next to me, aiming her camera towards the entrance to the ramp. I overheard an official say that the artists will walk up the ramp.

And there I was, in a prime spot to watch the parade of nations for the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. I was within an arm’s length of artisans from Italy, France, Laos, India, Ghana, and Vietnam. I was close enough to see details of their traditional costumes, translucent pina cloth from the Philippines, indigo dyed jackets from Nigeria and Thailand, and colorful bhandani shawls from India.

The next morning, at the market, I wandered around, entering textile booths to examine the wares more closely. I kept performing the “weaver’s handshake,”  fingering hand woven cotton robes, fondling flowing silk scarves, running my hand over knotted-pile rugs. I breathed in the scent of indigo dyed cotton and caught whiffs of sericin emanating from handwoven silk.

I bought samples of textiles I wanted to write about, a chikan embroidered napkin, a handwoven table runner from Mynamar, and an adire cloth tote. And I splurged on two items—an oh-so-soft indigo dyed jacket from Laos with classic H’mong embroidery on the sleeves, and a gorgeous machine embroidered white blouse from Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec.

I also bought a suzani embroidered wall hanging and an origami cap from Uzbekistan. Oh, also a felted cap from one of the other ‘Stans. And yes, a piece a of kantha embroidery. And a… I know there was something else.

But there was so much I could have bought and didn’t. Beautiful Mexican rugs, indigo dyed vests, hand embroidered huipiles and handwoven jackets. And I didn’t stay all afternoon—it was far too hot, and crowded. I entered the folk art museum to cool down, and yes, I did go into the bookstore, where I bought two books on textiles. Or was it three? Though I managed to resist so many more.

So yes, I came away with a much lighter wallet. But I had such a fabulous time indulging in two of my favorite vices—textiles and books.

Of course, I paid a heavy price for the exertion, the long hours in the Santa Fe oven and the exposure to crowded conditions—a crippling headache that lasted three days.

Was the experience worth it? Yes, yes, yes!