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Ainash Kapanova ponders the purchase of a new straw hat made by Ecuadorian artist Valentin Alarcon, right, during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill. Last year, the event was limited to just 200 attendees at a time due to COVID-19 concerns. This year, the limit has increased to 500.
Wares of all shapes and textures are available during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill including, from left, bells by Indian artist Janmamad Salemamad Luhar, retablos by Claudio Jimenez Quispe from Peru and Malaysian woven hats by Senia Jugii.
Janett Soto of Peru tries to keep cool while selling textiles as the tent warms up during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.
Leroy Median reacts after trying on a straw hat made by Ecuadorian artist Valentin Alarcon, left, during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.
Candace Chin looks at a display of micaceous pottery goods by Taos artist Brandon Ortiz during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.

Ainash Kapanova ponders the purchase of a new straw hat made by Ecuadorian artist Valentin Alarcon, right, during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill. Last year, the event was limited to just 200 attendees at a time due to COVID-19 concerns. This year, the limit has increased to 500.
The rings and chimes of copper-coated iron bells echoed across Milner Plaza on Museum Hill as a breeze swept through.
Bell-maker Janmamad Salemamad Luhar said in an interview through an interpreter the art has been a tradition in his family for more than three centuries. He is from Zura, a Muslim Luhar community in northwestern India.
His family uses a unique technique, coating the bells in just the right amount of copper brass powder and hammering the metal to give the bells a soothing sound.
Salemamad Luhar’s bells were among thousands of one-of-a-kind traditional works on display by 164 artists from 49 countries Thursday — the opening day of the annual International Folk Art Market. The event runs through Sunday on Museum Hill.
Folk Art Market CEO Melissa Mann said organizers extended the event this year to give people more time to visit without facing huge crowds on Museum Hill, as they have in past years, when the market opened on Fridays.
“Before, this area would have been packed with people,” Mann said as she walked through a wide-open space between art-filled tents.
Leroy Median reacts after trying on a straw hat made by Ecuadorian artist Valentin Alarcon, left, during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.
Mann said the popular market, first held in 2004, had seen up to 22,000 attendees in some years before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, it had to shift to a remote format, like many other summer events in Santa Fe, and in 2021 it drew about 9,000 guests.
This year, Mann said she expects well over 16,000 people to attend via timed entry tickets — with 500 attendees allowed in at once, rather than thousands.
For nearly two decades, the event has offered folk artisans and craftspeople worldwide an opportunity to earn money from their work — in some cases enough to support large families and create significant changes in communities.
Salemamad Luhar said bells have a deep cultural and religious significance in India, but he doesn’t make much money selling them at home.
Like many of the artists who show their work at the Folk Art Market, he relies on the annual trip to New Mexico for much of his annual income.
“Many of them make the majority of their annual income here in Santa Fe,” Mann said. “Some are representing the people in their village, and in some cases, it can even be 90 percent of the village’s income.”
Evah Mudenda made her way to Santa Fe with over 150 ilala palm baskets made by women from Binga, a remote village in Zimbabwe. Each had the name of one of the 60 women who created the decorative pieces. They are a part of a basket-weaving cooperative that aims to keep the tradition alive for future generations.
The weavers range in age from 14 to 85. Most learned the craft from their elders, but some of the younger weavers picked it up because of the cooperative.
“It makes me feel so good because I am thinking ‘traditional things must not be left to die,’ ” Mudenda said.
Janett Soto of Peru tries to keep cool while selling textiles as the tent warms up during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.
For many years, the women had no way to make money from their craft, and then in 2016, a sponsor invited the group to Santa Fe. Since then, the market has become one of the main sources of income for the group, which allows them to feed their children and send them to school.
Mudenda said she keeps track of who made which basket and makes sure to give the women every penny made from their work.
She recalled the days before the folk art market.
“You could only weave and maybe give them as birthday presents, wedding presents [and] picking eggs with them,” she said of the baskets, “[but] there is no market. This is the only market for us, and it is not easy.”
The basket-making process is laborious. The women chop down ilala palm leaves and cut them into strips. Then they boil the strips to soften them and let them dry in the sun for a few days. After the materials are ready for weaving, it could take up to seven days to complete a single basket. Some of the more complicated pieces can take up to a month to finish.
Though the process is time consuming, Mudenda said young women in her village are interested in making baskets and handing the tradition down to their children.
Wares of all shapes and textures are available during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill including, from left, bells by Indian artist Janmamad Salemamad Luhar, retablos by Claudio Jimenez Quispe from Peru and Malaysian woven hats by Senia Jugii.
Not all artists who participate in the market were able to be on Museum Hill for this year’s event. In fact, some who participate year after year have never been able to leave their country. Instead, volunteers help them sell their work.
A group of 300 women from the Sulafa Embroidery Center in Palestinian territory have sent their crafts to the market for the past six years, but none has ever attended.
“They can’t leave Gaza,” market volunteer Jane Abbott said. “The Israelis won’t let them leave.”
The woman make embroidered scarves, pillows and clothing using a traditional technique that has been around for over 150 years in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and neighboring nations. Intricately stitched patterns pop out in red on the black garments, which each took weeks to complete.
Abbott said many Palestinian families rely on these women’s crafts to get by in Gaza.
“That income is usually the only income in the family,” she said, noting the unemployment rate in Gaza is high.
Helping the women sell their work is one of the few things she can do to help the Palestinian people, Abbot said, adding many of their customers purchase their crafts for the same reason.
She recalled a woman who purchased a jacket made by the women of the Sulafa Embroidery Center — “a beautiful jacket” — and said, “You just tell them that a Jewish lady bought their jacket to support them.”
“That just that really got me,” Abbott said.
Candace Chin looks at a display of micaceous pottery goods by Taos artist Brandon Ortiz during the opening day of this year’s International Folk Art Market on Thursday at Milner Plaza on Museum Hill.
Friday: The International Folk Art Market is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Museum Hill, $25.
Saturday: Market is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 20; new Saturday Night Market featuring Kombilesa Mi is from 6 to 9 p.m., $20.
Sunday: Market is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., $15.
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