In an age where we have immediate access to almost everything under the sun I still believe in keeping things real. I enjoy shutting the smart phone off and having a cup of coffee with an artist or visiting their studios and talking shop, offering a frybread and a cold drink from our restaurant to vendors that have traveled a great distance on an unforgiving desert highway to bring product directly to us. I love doing business on a handshake knowing it’s an honor to keep one’s word, plus, it keeps me honest. It’s an old school mentality that has helped me in so many ways concerning the business of Native American arts and crafts. It’s allowed me to gain a deeper respect for Native art as well as the artist. It’s a lot of work but it is also work I love to do. Don’t get me wrong, I think technology is a wondrous thing. I celebrate it every day streaming the Skints, checking the stats of my beloved Denver Broncos or posting shameless Facebook selfies. That said, I still believe all of us could benefit from slowing down a bit and taking time to admire and enjoy the beauty of all things.
I take a lot of pride in the fact that we are one of the few businesses that still takes time to travel to various reservations and Pueblos to buy direct from the artist whenever we can. We have been invited into many a humble home, often meeting the whole family and listening to their many stories. Most are beautiful, many are spit-your-drink-out-of-your-nose humorous and some are of intense hardship and struggle but they are all inspiring and in my humble opinion the most integral part of the great adventure of Native American art, its creation and its spirit. Recently, we met with Santa Claran potter, Geri Naranjo, her story of recovering from a major stroke and the tremendous effort to gather herself back to 100% was incredible! One cannot tell at all looking at her intricately etched miniature pots of her struggle or how close she came to having to give up pottery altogether. She excitedly showed us her tools of the trade and even let us feel the very clay and slips she uses to create her intricate wares. On that very same trip we met for the first time Pojoaque potter, Cordie Gomez, and found her family was the first to re-settle the Pueblo of Pojoaque in the early 30’s. As she described her work in fine micaceous pottery she also proudly recounted her family’s history. We could tell she had tremendous pride in her culture and her people and her story certainly was an unexpected surprise for us. Their energy was infectious and we left for home talking about them all the way back to Albuquerque. The strength of our elders and their desire to share their humor, wisdom and experiences never ceases to amaze me.
We’ve spent a lot of time on the interstates and dusty rez roads. Many times navigating by directions written on napkins, gum wrappers, grease stained paper bags or simply stated, “Go south down this road (points with lips) about 3 miles then you’ll turn left after the 4th speed bump then take a right at the cattle guard. Stay on the dirt road about a mile then it’s a little brown house on the left with an American flag in the window. There’s usually a dog with three legs named Bernice that likes to sleep on the porch. Don’t worry; she probably won’t even notice you to bark at you.” Upon arrival (and after a quick scan for errant rez dogs) we are usually greeted by a smiling artist waving us to come in. Stepping into an unsuspecting home and finding some of the greatest pieces of Native art I have ever had the pleasure to lay my eyes upon hidden away in home studios or workshops always is a striking discovery. This was the case meeting award winning Hopi Jeweler, Gerald Lomaventema, who brought out the most amazing inlayed concho belt and an inlayed Sunface buckle. He was also a great help contacting and gathering Hopi artists and inviting all of us to his home studio to meet and make introductions.
With Shumakolowa.com we are hoping to take you along for the adventure! As fulfilling as many of these experiences are sometimes the gift is simply the journey. The open road and reservation landscapes of some of the places we’ve been to feels like the Creator put a little extra into it. I can vividly recollect a moment with the radio tuned to KUYI and The Doors, “Riders on the Storm” pouring through the speakers, the desert sunset blazing like a fire in the sky,a strong scent of sage in the air with rain on the horizon cutting through the mesas and wild horses celebrating the coming storm. We get to see things many of you only hear about and we are excited to finally be able to capture these moments and share them with you! Again, welcome to the new Shumakolowa.com! Let the voyage begin!