Lining the Governors Building facing the Santa Fe Plaza are licensed, local Indian jewelry vendors. Many of the vendors are also the artists that make the jewelry. Many of the artists take great pride in the turquoise they use and the other materials they use. The vendors must be licensed and the inspectors make sure that the products or authentic.
With not an inch of unused space in this shop, The Original Trading Post accommodates a variety of souvenirs including T-shirts, key rings, shot glasses, Native American basketware and pottery, postcards, etc.
One section of the shop holds a selection of Western-style suede and leather jackets, long skirts and belts.
One side of the shop is devoted entirely to selling jewellery, including many pieces of Native American design including turquoise, rose stone and other traditional materials.
I was drawn into the shop by it's selection of postcards, which are very reasonably priced; I ended up leaving the shop with some postcards and a couple of pieces of jewellery - equally reasonably priced.
What to buy: The selection of Native American jewellery is impressive and is sure to include a piece to meet everyone's desires.
What to pay: Santa Fe is notorious for pricing it's wares for the tourist, yet I found The Original Trading Post's prices extremely competitive - almost comparing with those in Albuquerque.
Along the portico of the Palace of the Governors, and on the north side of the Plaza opposite, Native Americans take up their places each day to sell jewellery and other traditional crafts. This is an eighty year old tradition, nowadays operated through the “Native American Artisans Program of the Palace of the Governors”. There are around 1,000 vendors who are licensed to sell here after going through a strict application process to assess the quality of their work. The goods displayed and sold by participants in the scheme must be made by the seller or by their household members. Every morning the 63 spots available, each 12 bricks wide, are allocated by lottery, so you can never be sure who you will find here or what they will be selling. But it’s a great opportunity to buy directly from the creator and as they all seem happy to talk about their work you will also find out a bit about the piece you are buying.
What to buy: I looked at a number of items. One man was selling silver necklaces with representations of the different sacred animals, such as Bear and Wolf, and explained the meaning of each to me. But in the end I opted for turquoise, choosing a pretty silver necklace threaded with small stones which the seller told me came from Arizona.
What to pay: Prices seemed reasonable to me for the quality of the work – you are of course cutting out the middleman by purchasing here rather than in a shop. My necklace was $40 – I didn’t try haggling as no one else appeared to be doing so, and I felt the price was fair.
This is my last tip; return to the Intro page
If you're on the lookout for festishes, you can hardly do better than Keshi, a coop which has been marketing Zuni arts and crafts for the past thirty years. Case after case of beautifully carved mountain lions, bison, snakes, eagles, wolves, frogs, rabbits, turtles, moles, badgers, and bears will enchant you. These fetishes have been used by the Zuni for a millennium. Each has its own natural traits, and so carrying one or keeping it handy to look at may be a way of summoning our own strengths. (In fact, Keshi provides you with a small bag of blue corn with which to "feed" your festish and enhance its special traits.)
There are, of course, many necklaces of fetishes. Authentic Zuni fetish necklaces feature finely made shell (or jet, turquoise, or coral) beads from Santo Domingo Pueblo between each fetish. You can expect to pay at least $200.00 per strand for such necklaces.
Other jewelry, belt buckles, and traditional items are also available.
What to buy: I found a perfectly carved crow with the turquoise eye which I plan to give my son upon his return from Tokyo, where crows are a major hazard of daily life. It is nice to know his provenance -- the shop gives you a receipt with the name of the carver and the pueblo, which is a great idea.
What to pay: My crow, which is about an inch high, was $40.00.
As you might expect from the name, The Chile Shop does sell hot sauces, salsas, seasonings and soup mixes, and a lot of things which have chiles on them (ornaments, holiday cards, mugs, calendars, tiles, windsocks, strings of lights, tote bags, etc.). But if you expected that would be it, you'd be missing the chance to see some marvelous local pottery, southwestern crystal, and unique gift items.
What to buy: I was particularly taken by the Petroglyph Pottery, which is hand-thrown and glazed in terra cotta and flat black and then carved with classic petrogylphs. Sounds expensive, yes? It is, but it is also oven and dishwasher safe. And you could buy just a single exemplar -- say a 5" bread plate for $70 in lieu of the 20" round platter for $625 -- to look at in admiration.
Bobby Nofchissey bills himself as "Fine Native American Jewelry Sales & Services" and truer words were seldom spoken. I doubt we'd have found his space in the Santa Fe Arcade if it had not been for the glowing recommendation at Keshi, where my friend had purchased a replacement Zuni bracelet for one stolen in an Albuquerque house-break. The new bracelet wasn't quite large enough to be comfortable, so she bought the matching earrings, also a lovely inlay, and at the store's urging, took both items to Bobby. Less than an hour later, he'd fabricated new connections, installed a new clasp, and handed my friend a bracelet that she'll happily wear for years. He was not inexpensive, but the craftsmanship was impeccable. If I were in the market for some high-end pieces (especially in gold), Bobby would be my choice.
This is the best place to find that treasure to take home! The long, covered porch (portal) of the historic Palace of the Governors is reserved exclusively for skilled members of the Native American Vendor's Program to market their wonderful crafts. To be accepted in the program, a vendor's works have to be handmade, traditional to the culture, demonstrate a high level of quality and carry a maker's mark that guarantees that it's the real deal. Jewelry, beadwork, leather goods, weavings, pottery, and other offerings are inspected daily by an appointed committee, and the Museum of New Mexico's Board of Regents oversees the integrity and strict regulation of the program's rules and regulations.
It's great because everybody wins: Native Americans have a dignified, high-traffic, rent-free outlet for their works, traditional craftsmanship thrives and visitors are assured that the items they purchase are genuine and not cheap knockoffs from heaven-knows-where. Prices range depending on the amount of precious metals or other costly materials an item contains and/or the amount of hours involved to create the piece but there's something in everyone's price range and browsing is half the fun!
360 days a year, roughly mid-mornings through early evenings.
We arrived early one morning at the Sanctuario de Chimayo, but found congregants praying in the chapel. Rather than disturb them, we all agreed to backtrack to Ortega's Weaving Shop and return a short while later to see the little chapel.
It was a very good decision! The Ortega family has been offering beautifully woven creations since the 1700's, so their products stand out from the crowd!
Inside the shop, we discovered brightly colored weavings of blankets, placemats, coasters, pillows, men's and women's vests, jackets and coats, bookmarks, purses...so many things expertly done in gorgeous combinations of hues and designs.
The store also had a glass case full of silver and torquoise jewelry, from which I selected a nicely designed bracelet (see picture#3). The pieces were discounted 25%! Somehow, a reflection of gold and red are shown in the picture, which is not on the actual torquoise.
To one side of the shop is a small room containing looms (picture #2), the type on which these lovely items are created.
Note: This shop was priced better than the shop by the same name located off the Santa Fe town plaza.
What to buy: Any woven item--beautifully executed in lovely colors
What to pay: Reasonable
This is an interesting store with a huge amount of large specialty papers you could use to wrap gifts or use for art projects. Of course a lot of it has that Asian feel to it, but there are also greeting cards to buy and things like that.
The Native American jewelry is what first lured me in, though it's the belt buckles & tips that actually hooked me! Their selection (of both jewelry & buckles) is good, as are prices. Most everything seemed to be signed/initialed on the back so you KNOW that it's authentic. The staff was friendly and helpful in every way!
What to buy: I bought my belt at Tom Taylor in the La Fonda Hotel (at the suggestion of one of the salespeople here), but bought my much more affordable Native American buckle & tip at Sun Country Traders. They gladly attached the buckle & tip to the belt while I waited.
What to pay: Jewelry prices range, as can be expected. Silver buckles & tips were approximately $80 to $300, depending on intricacy of design.