Jul. 31—An angel with wings made of sticks and stones hung beside a long-armed mermaid with dangling jewels.
"I'm a dreamer," said their creator, Armando Adrian-López. "Every day, every night I dream. ... When I see things I see something else, simple forms, faces, creatures and that's how I was inspired."
Adrian-López is one of the roughly 270 artists and crafts people selling their work on the Santa Fe Plaza at the 36th annual Contemporary Hispanic Market and the 70th annual Traditional Spanish Market this weekend.
Thousands flooded the streets of downtown Santa Fe to experience this truly New Mexican tradition on Saturday, and more are expected Sunday.
Both markets were canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and returned in 2021 at roughly half their normal size. Now they are back in full swing, with artists from all over the state eager to show off their work.
"This year, I thought, 'You know what, these artists can't continue not earning money because this is what artists do for our livelihood,' " said Ramona Vigil Eastwood, president of the Contemporary Hispanic Market.
Vigil Eastwood said she invited as many artists as she could, only limited by the amount of space available.
Adrian-López, 57, said he was eager to return this year.
The self-taught painter and sculptor started participating in the Contemporary Hispanic Market in 2000 after his work was displayed at the Good Hands Art gallery.
His work was an instant hit among marketgoers.
"The first markets I was here, people made lines to get into my booth. I didn't even get here and people were already waiting for me," Adrian-López said.
Adrian-López was born in the village of Santa Maria, Michoacán, Mexico, and is a Tarascan Native.
He said he has been an artist all his life but never made much from it until until he moved to Taos and started participating in markets.
He started at the farmers market selling crops from his farm. One day, he made a small horse out of native grasses to decorate the table. He sold it for $25, and it blew up from there.
His pieces now go for well over $1,000, each created under a sudden spur of inspiration.
"People ask, 'How long does it take to to make this piece?' Then I say, 'I don't know; I never know how long it takes,' " he said.
Adrian-López said he often starts a project then abandons it for months until his inspiration returns.
"They speak with me, and they say what they need," Adrian-López said about his art.
Over at the Traditional Spanish Market, 17-year-old Ezequiel Korte sold handmade tin decorations. He is one of the many talented youth artists who are working to keep traditional Spanish art alive for future generations.
Korte said he started doing tin work when he was 9 years old, after his mom made him enroll in classes to help with dysgraphia — a learning disability that affects people's ability to write.
That same year, he went to the market alongside his mentor, professional tin artist Richard Gabriel and has been participating in it ever since.
Over the years, Korte learned to love doing tinwork, and the shy young boy started coming out of his shell.
"At first it was a bit scary since 9-year-old me was very antisocial and didn't like hanging out much, usually spent his time hiding in a corner," Korte said. "But I got used to it, like a cat in a new home."
Korte said tinwork has also been therapeutic for him, helping him get out any frustration a teenage boy might deal with.
"The punching is my favorite bit," Korte said. "Like, the nail gets smacked with a hammer, and it creates an indent on the tin."
He said he wants other youth to get into tinwork too but noticed the kids at the market were always more interested in making retablos.
"I try whenever I can to get kids interested in it, and I hand the little ornaments to small kids to try to inspire them. So far my efforts have been for naught," Korte said.
Gabriel, who teaches tinwork at Santa Fe Community College, said the craft is relatively cheap and accessible for young people, compared to some of the other traditional art forms at the market. He said the supplies needed cost less than $100 and can last a lifetime.
"The punches and the hammers don't really break or wear down so much," Gabriel said. "So, you know, once you've shelled out that initial fee, you don't have a lot of expenses."
This is Korte's last year taking part in the youth market, but he hopes to return next year and join the "adult" market.