Start planning your exciting trip by thoroughly checking out the International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA) website. This organization puts on the annual Market up at Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico the second full weekend in July. Their website covers everything about the market as well as links to places to stay in Santa Fe. After you have planned what days you’d like to attend the Market, I would strongly urge you to make your reservation for your overnight accommodations. Santa Fe gets REALLY busy during this weekend when thousands of people come into town for the event. I try to book six months ahead for the best selection. https://www.folkartalliance.org
Places to stay
Santa Fe is a great place to indulge. If you have the means to do that then I would suggest you check out La Fonda hotel, The Lodge at Santa Fe, or La Posada. All of these hotels are close to the Santa Fe Plaza and offer a wonderful luxurious accommodations that are truly Santa Fe style (think adobe, pine and talavera tiles). July is a hot month in New Mexico so staying at a hotel with a pool can be a nice treat. Ten Thousand Waves Spa is also high on the list of luxurious accommodations if you want to be out of the busy zone. The spa has overnight casitas and is nestled in the foothills and forest. It feels worlds away yet is just a short drive from downtown. It embraces a natural, Japanese environment. If you are on a budget I would suggest VRBO or Airbnb. There are many choices depending on your preferences. I always enjoy staying in private residences because they have more room to spread out and often you can find places with neat outdoor yards/patios. I also love to see how people decorate a space. There are also traditional budget minded hotels available like La Quinta, Holiday Inn and also some funky little hotels and motels. I have heard great things about Silver Saddle Motel.
Getting to Santa Fe
We live near Boulder, Colorado and enjoyed the 7 hour drive through stunning landscape. Santa Fe is situated just off Interstate I-25. If you are flying, check out flights info Albuquerque and then take a shuttle (about an hour) to Santa Fe. This is more economical than trying to fly directly to Santa Fe. Santa Fe does have a small airport with little airplanes that are known for being bouncy rides. If you do fly directly into Santa Fe be sure to eavesdrop 🙂 on your fellow passengers, which isn’t too hard to do on a small plane. Since a lot of television shows and movies are filmed around Santa Fe, it is not unusual to have an actor or a movie crew on your flight.
Need I say more? This alone is why many people come to Santa Fe! My absolute favorites are breakfast at Counter Culture (930 Baca St), any meal (especially the Huevos Rancheros) at The Shed. I also suggest a visit to Kakawa Chocolate House, Cafe Pasqual’s, Tomasita’s, Casa Chimayo, and El Farol on Canyon Road for tapas and live flamenco dancers and music. For a gorgeous view during sunset head up to the rooftop bar at La Fonda and be sure to order some drinks and snacks because it will be so stunning that you won’t want to leave. When you order your huevos rancheros, burritos or enchiladas be sure to ask for them “Christmas” which means combining both red and green chili sauce. This is the best way when the chilis are so good!
Things to do in Santa Fe
Visit the Loretto Chapel, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, browse at art galleries on Canyon Road, visit the popular Meow Wolf immersive multimedia art exhibit, or people watch at the Plaza. Be sure to check out the beautifully made, authentic jewelry, pottery and more sold directly from Native American vendors on the porch of the Palace of the Governors. Head to Ten Thousand Waves Spa for a soak under the stars or a massage. If you just happen to be with someone pregnant then sign them up for a Watsu!
Preparing for the Market
In my book this is serious work. I spend hours studying the website, making notes of specific artists booths I want to be sure to visit. When I first arrive at the Market I find all of the booths on a map you are given as you arrive. I highlight the booths that I don’t want to miss. Now you can just show up and go with the flow, too. That actually sounds really fun but for me this is a business trip. I make purchases for the shop, learn from artists about the techniques involved creating their textiles and goods and more.
Packing for the trip
When you are packing for the trip be sure to bring the following to be used when you go to the Market:
- a large refillable water bottle
- comfortable shoes – Note that that will get dusty and possibly muddy, as you will walk on uneven dirt a lot of the day
- a sun hat
- an umbrella (good for rain or sun)
- a shawl or light jacket (storms can suddenly come up and it can cool down in a hurry)
- sun lotion
- a comfortable outfit that you can easily try things on over (there aren’t any fitting rooms)
- a couple (or more!) nylon packable bags. They do have paper bags for when you buy things but it gets awkward holding a bunch of bags and they can easily rip.
- cash/credit cards
- snacks (there is food available to purchase but it is helpful to have a granola bar)
- a tape measure (very helpful when selecting clothing if you know the measurements of the sizes you are looking for)
- a camera or cell phone with a whole lot of space for pictures
And if you are as moved as I am by the overwhelming scale of the beauty here you might need a Kleenex or two. Every year there are a few moments where I get choked up by the collage of colors, patterns, textures, sounds of live world music, and unfamiliar languages. It is an incredible experience. Often the stories told by the artisans are what move me to tears. The hardships they have faced and the beauty they create is just a lot to take in.
I encourage you to register for Express Pay before you go to the Market. You can do this on the IFAA website. You enter your credit card information ahead of time and then are able to use an Express Pay line during the Market which greatly speeds up the paying process. More about that later.
Going to the Market
On https://www.folkartalliance.org you can learn the locations where one can board the complimentary Market shuttle buses to the location of the Market on Museum Hill. There isn’t any parking available for cars on Museum Hill so taking a shuttle bus or hiking are the only way up! My advice is to arrive early to get in line for a bus and to have a lot of patience. Sometimes I have waited over an hour to board the bus. Realize that all of the people around you are going to the same place you are because they share in the passion of artisan made folk art so relax and enjoy meeting the people around you. I encourage you to buy tickets ahead of time on https://www.folkartalliance.org. You will be excited when you finally get to the Market, and if you don’t have a pre-purchased ticket, you will have to wait in another line to buy a ticket! Be sure to take the booklet about the Market that is offered to you. It’s a good idea to immediately find a spot to look through this and understand where bathrooms, water stations, medics, food and pay stations are because chances are you will need all of these (hopefully not the medics but it easy to become dehydrated at the high altitude so keep drinking water!).
The process of buying (and then paying)
Ok, so you have found some incredible things and want to make some purchases. The first time you buy things at the Market, it can be a little confusing, so I will take you through the purchase process. In every artist’s booth there are volunteers who help you start the purchase process. Bring the things you’d like to buy to one of these volunteers. They will take you, or point you, to a nearby table where other volunteers write up the invoice and bag up your items. You do not pay here – and you can’t take your items yet. You will get a copy of the invoice which you will take to one of the pay stations. A few suggestions: Pay for all of the things you buy in one area at the same time. You can bring multiple invoices up to pay. Each invoice has the booth number of the artist which is key because you will have to go back to each booth, and show them your receipt to be able to pick up your items. This is tedious and takes time so be sure to not wait until the last half hour the Market is open to start the paying process. My method is to select, pay and retrieve my purchases at each area before I move to the next area. I do end up carrying things and I bring along my husband or a friend to act as a sherpa for me. 🙂 Your arms may get very tired and sore from the weight of textiles but you can’t let that stop you. As Tim Gunn says on Project Runway, “Make it work!” You can rest later!
The last suggestions
If you get confused or overwhelmed there are hundreds of volunteers scurrying around the Market that are trained to be helpful. Look for the people in the t-shirts that say “Volunteer.” Please be aware of the dynamics in each booth of the artist and the volunteers. Occasionally there will be an English-speaking artist but I have found this to be an exception. You have to remember that many of the artists who travel here from Haiti, Morocco, Ecuador, and other parts of the world have never left their villages and the experience is probably somewhat overwhelming for them. I do urge you to engage the artist if a translator is present. Be respectful and curious and your experience will be much deeper. I have heard stories from artists that I will never forget. One heartbreaking story was from a young woman from Africa who creates beaded jewelry to support herself and her child. Her story is so tragic. She was married in an arranged marriage and her husband became ill and died. She was pregnant and returned to her parent’s home for support. Her father wouldn’t let her come back to the family home since she was now no longer “pure” and was considered un-marriable. She lived on the streets for some time before she heard of an organization that was teaching women how to create things and make an income. Creating jewelry now gives her a future to look forward to. She had such a beautiful smile and was incredibly grateful to be chosen to come sell her goods at the Market. Be sure to stop and enjoy the wonderful live world music at the big stage. The Market always has great performers and it is a really fun place to people watch. When you get home please share your stories and photos with friends and family. Educate them about the significance of folk art and show them the beautiful things you purchased so that they, too, will want to come to the International Folk Art Market and support these talented artists from all over the world.