Old or outsourced

Santa Fe is home to one of the largest art markets in the world. If you have money, an eclectic taste in clothes and jewelry, and a house to furnish in that Aztecky desert style so peculiar to the region, then it’s a place worth visiting.  I was quite taken with the arts and crafts initially but then, in conversation with some of the vendors, I was a little disheartened to discover that the whole ‘designed in’ vs ‘made in’ blur of distinction had made it to the desert.

IMG_5855 (800x600)I’d set my eye on a blue woven basket, a large part of whose charm lay in the fact that I thought it was made by a Navajo Indian. I have a weird obsession with knowing the origins of things and prefer my originals to be signed and dated. But while it was designed by a Navajo artisan, it was actually made in Punjabi, India. This gave the outsourcing thing a whole new slant and poked another hole in my naivety. I really need to do something about the growing sense of dissatisfaction I have with the price of progress.

IMG_5856 (600x800)That said, though, it’s a lovely city with lots to gawk at and plenty of shops to wander around. With 200 restaurants, 250 art galleries, 50 Indian jewelry shops, 13 major museums, and a world-famous opera, there’s plenty to occupy a couple of days. Not that we had that sort of time, mind you. It has the oldest government seat in the United States, the oldest church in the United States, and the oldest house in the United States. So that makes it old. And, apparently, it was a town 13 years before the Pilgrims hit on Plymouth Rock. And in American terms, that’s really old.

IMG_5838 (800x600)The city sits at the end of the Santa Fe trail, a lifeline between Missouri and New Mexico that opened in 1821. The trail crosses five states and back in its day, military forts opened along the route to protect trail travel and trade. Route 66 also passes through it. And, when I stop to think about it, the city has made the transition to the twenty-first century relatively unscathed in parts. So perhaps this is one part of the world where the price of progress has been held in check, visually at least. Hope? Perhaps!

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4 replies
  1. Peter T
    Peter T says:

    I’m with you Mary – I also have an obsession with buying things from the source. Especially in a place which is famous for it’s handmade goods. But we can’t be too surprised in world where even Harley Davidson clothing and accessories are made in China?!

    I finally made it to Santa Fe last year, but have to say I was underimpressed. Taos, on the other hand, really did it for me! Definitely worth the drive (and the drive is beautiful in itself).

  2. gingerpaque
    gingerpaque says:

    Have been musing on this since reading it… Not that any of the following is relevant to your post, but you provoked this line of thought: I think it depends on what your ultimate purpose is. My sister just gave me a beautiful African table (to celebrate finishing my thesis!!!). It matches some artifacts I brought from the same region of Africa. It is gorgeous, and beyond my budget. I had a bit of a problem with it–she bought it from an online boutique. It was made by the same group in Africa, but they probably got a small percentage of the income. I love it, and it was her way of visiting Africa (she is not an adventurous traveler) and bringing me something I would like/use. It works. On a related note: what about replicas of antiques? They are in better shape, they are cool. They are not ‘real’. Does it matter? Depends on the purpose. Do I want it for its link to history (like my newspaper from 1792 France) or because it fits with my decor? What can I afford? Am I looking for a souvenir to remind me of a trip, or a way to support the local economy? Ideally I get two-for-one. In Africa, that’s easy. In New Mexico, a local designer is probably the best option.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      For me, it’s more about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. We’re so disposable now in our collecting that we’re reluctant to pay for handwoven, handtooled, handmade goods that are made locally when we can have the ‘same’ stuff made much more cheaply abroad. I resent the middle-man making such a big margin and yet am torn between getting at least something to the local manufacturer and giving the broker his cut. Am all for cooperatives… and cause-related marketing.


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