KETCHIKAN — When Eliasica Timmerman and several other Alaska Native artists decided to take their weavings and baskets to a venue Down South, they started big.
The Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico is the largest sales venue for Native arts and crafts in the world, drawing crowds of about 150,000 people in one weekend each August.
“It’s actually very overwhelming,” Timmerman said at a talk and slide show she presented Nov. 2 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.
Organizers shut down the center of Santa Fe for the entire weekend to host the event, which is sponsored by Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. According to information at swaia.org, the Indian Fair was created in 1922 by the Museum of New Mexico as part of the Santa Fe Fiesta celebration.
Timmerman said a “handful” of Ketchikan Native artists attend the market when they can, including Diane Douglas-Willard and her daughter, Gianna Willard; Norman Jackson; Marvin Oliver; Holly Churchill; and Dolly Garza.
She said that Douglas-Willard has been attending the market for about 15 years.
Timmerman, who is half Haida and half Mexican, said she and some local artists also participate in the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix in March. She said that venue is smaller, but still attracts about 20,000 visitors over the weekend.
She said one aspect she enjoys about attending the markets is sitting at her table conversing with the people next to her. She said she was particularly fascinated to learn more about the Southwest Native katsina dolls, for instance.
Timmerman said the opportunity to converse with artists who grew up in other cultures, learning and practicing their traditional arts is “really, really, neat.”
The big markets are competitive, Timmerman said: Artists must apply and send in photos of recent work. About 1,500 to 1,700 artists attend each year.
Highly coveted awards are given for artwork Friday night at the Santa Fe Market, Timmerman said, and collectors will arrive very early the next morning, in hopes of being the first there to buy the winning pieces and to meet the artists.
Ketchikan’s artists have garnered many honors at the Santa Fe Market, including best of class and best of division awards for a Haida hat Garza wove; a second-place award for a rattletop basket incorporating maidenhair fern and first-place award for a dance apron, both made by Timmerman; and a first-place award for one of Douglas-Willard’s rattletop baskets.
“It does all our artists good to be down in the Southwest and win something like that,” Timmerman said.