By Mel A. James
It is an unfortunate truth that holiday shopping can be stressful. The idea of overcrowded stores and the pressure of finding the right gift can overwhelm the spirit of the season. But when you make the effort to shop local or handmade, buying the perfect present can be a joyful and fun experience. And Taos is hyper-local, meaning we have very few chain stores. When you shop in Taos, you are helping to boost the local economy, not only by keeping your dollars here, but also by supporting local artists and craftspeople who are inspired by the natural beauty of this spectacular place.
When you shop in Taos, you are wandering among the warmth of adobe walls that are bathed in the light of farolitos and inhaling the delicious scent of piñon wood smoke and freshly-baked biscochitos. Do not let your car take you to the asphalt jungle—stay in Taos and find treasures here.
There are many areas of Taos with little shops tucked here and there, but there are certain spots where you can find clusters of small businesses that makes wandering a pleasure. THE PLAZA: the heart of town, with its proliferation of holiday lights and even a little music coming from speakers hidden in the trees offers a festive atmosphere. You can find jewelry, apparel, chocolates, candles, outdoor gear, fine art, and more. Wander over to the JOHN DUNN HOUSE SHOPS: a charming walking mall with a wide variety of small shops on either side of your leisurely stroll through this historical compound. Find yarn, gemstones, leather, Mexican folk art, books and lots more. Walk all the way through John Dunn and find yourself on charming BENT STREET, which offers more fine art, kitchen goods, jewelry, pottery, chocolate, and apparel. Heading east up Bent Street, you end up on Paseo del Pueblo Norte, which has shops stretching in either direction. Head north on Paseo for fair trade goods, more yarn and books, outdoor gear, and Eastern-inspired home décor and gifts. Head south for Southwestern-inspired home décor and gifts, local pottery, and fine art. Once you find yourself back at the Plaza intersection, walk east down Kit Carson Road for the highest concentration of fine-art galleries in town. Find landscapes in oil, modern abstracts, glass sculpture, folk art, photography, and so much more. Make sure you walk several blocks down, as the shops keep going further than you might think.
Many of these clusters of shops and street locations will hold holiday events to encourage leisurely and festive shopping.
If you’re looking to find a wide variety of items in one place, then consider either the TAOS FOLK pop-up store or the YULETIDE ARTS AND CRAFTS FESTIVAL, both of which offer a staggering variety of hand-crafted items to fill out your gift list.
TAOS FOLK was first started in 2008 by Georgia Page and was taken over in 2013 by Cathleen Lambridis. It is a popup store, which means it only appears once (or maybe twice) a year, usually beginning the day after Thanksgiving and closing on Christmas Eve, and it features the work of local artists and craftspeople. Its home is in the Stables Gallery (part of the Taos Center for the Arts complex), which is transformed into a retail space for the holiday shopping season.
I’m always impressed with the look of the space—so much care is put into the design that it feels like a high-end shop, not something that is only around for a few weeks. As Lambridis says, “As a graphic designer myself, the ‘look’ of the show is very important to me, so the color scheme this year will change from the turquoise, fuchsia and white of 2015 to a cool and elegant gold, white, and cherry red. The display pieces, made just for TAOS FOLK by Ben Curry last year, out of recycled pallets and reclaimed fencing wood (much of it from Habitat for Humanity of Taos Re-store), will again serve as the backdrop of all the artists’ work.”
As for the art itself, Lambridis remarks, “The 2016 show looks to be a really smashing event with new and interesting work, by some known and some unknown artists. This year we will have about 65 artists … this is about the same number of artists we had last year, but as always we will have about 15 new artists to spice up the offerings!”
The variety of art offered runs the gamut from jewelry and apparel to sculpture and photography. There will also be a selection of Taos-centric books on hand, by authors and publishers associated with the Society of the Muse of the Southwest (SOMOS). As far as the style of artwork that one might see, Lambridis says, “I try to encourage the artists to keep focused on Taos and the Southwest when designing their pieces … the buying public, many of whom are tourists, often request work reflective of our geographic region.”
Another big event for all-in-one-place holiday shopping is the YULETIDE ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR, a three-day gala featuring some of the best handmade items that Taos has to offer. Now in its 34th year, this event is one of the most long-running and successful arts and crafts fairs in town. Once a Town of Taos event, it is now run as a fundraiser for Community Against Violence (CAV). When I spoke with Annette Bowden, CAV Arts and Crafts Fair Coordinator, she expressed, “I think that’s a huge part of the success of this show, that the proceeds go toward the programs at CAV.” The event offers the ability to find just about any handmade gift you could imagine: jewelry, woodwork, pottery and ceramics, toys, candles, soaps, leather, stained glass, silk scarves, and even edibles like jams, jellies, and cookies. But they also make sure to have entertainment and activities: in the past they’ve offered a paining booth for children. And Santa Claus is always on hand and available for photographs.
While the show used to be downtown at the Town of Taos convention center, last year it was it at a new location, The Sagebrush Inn. Bowden tells me, “It was a challenge, trying to establish it at the Sagebrush. It was a lot of work, but we have a good following, so people came to the new location, plus the Sagebrush has been a pleasure to work with.”
She says the change has been a positive one, and they are eager to feature it at the Sagebrush again this year. The Yuletide Arts and Crafts Fair opens the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Sunday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Taos is bursting with an exciting, vibrant, and extensive array of locally made products—find the absolute perfect gift to express the spirit of the season and share the heart of our little town.
TAOS FOLK NOV 25 – DEC 24.
YULETIDE ARTS & CRAFTS FAIR Nov 25, 26 & 27
TAOS MAGAZINE | NOV/DEC 2016