The 'Original' Creative Crafting Magazine written by Crafters, for Crafters

Creative Crafting magazine began in August/September 2009, when a group of crafting friends on the Creative Connections network decided that it would be a good idea to raise awareness of the crafting community. From this point they started work and the first issue of Creative Crafting was published in October 2009 and are still publishing today.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Year in Sante Fe Part 1

A Year in Sante Fe Part 1
Written by Jim from Kath Guitars
Published in the October 2011 Edition

Literally across the street from our house!
My wife, Maritza, and I have had for the past thirteen years the goal of moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  For those unfamiliar with this strange and quirky place, go hit Google and check it out.  It’s a place like no other location in the United States and runs the gamut from filthy rich to dirt poor, from English as the primary language to Spanish as the primary language, from highly scientific (Los Alamos Nuclear Labs is close by) to being the biggest artist community in the country; a place where an artist who makes clay pots for a living is sitting in a swanky restaurant next to a nuclear physicist, both eating the same wonderful, Native American dish.  Not to mention, since this is really their home, not ours, the multitude of Indian Nations found in the region.

Most of New Mexico, long ago, used to belong to Mexico.  But like most great places in this country we took it for ourselves (actually, my family wasn’t a part of that theft, we came here from Denmark in 1901 and Maritza’s family came here from Colombia in 1956).  The part that didn’t belong to Mexico belonged to the Native American Indians, but we took that too.  We really, really, wanted it.  And like many other places in this country, we put the word “New” in front of Mexico letting the world know that we’ve improved it and everyone should now know it is ours (New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, New Hampshire, New Providence… you get the idea).

We’re located in the middle of the desert.  It’s not the thousand miles of sand kind of desert, but the kind you see in all the old westerns: tumble weed, coyotes, rattle snakes, big spiders, Jerusalem Crickets and people in cowboy boots, only now they ride in large SUVs instead of on horses.  But there are plenty of horses too.  All of the houses are adobe style, which we absolutely adore, and our lawns are not grass, but rocks, which thankfully don’t need to be trimmed once a week.  The moths here are the size of airplanes.  We have a five-pound Yorkshire terrier named Sable and we must constantly stand guard as many locals have lost dogs and cats to the coyotes, owls and other large predators.

So, the reason for this article is to chronicle our first year in this foreign land (yes, I stole the idea from Peter Mayle’s “A Year In Province”, but we Americans are good at taking other peoples’ stuff and making it our own, see the above paragraph regarding the word “New”).  It so many times happens that what we experience is vastly different from what we expected.  We’ve only been here a month and already it has started.  I won’t go into all of the history of Santa Fe as there are literally hundreds of books on the subject and I don’t have enough space here to do it, so I’ll stick to our experiences and hopefully you can fill in what’s missing with outside material.

Our goal was to begin living the work lives we have always wanted; making and selling our artist works.  Maritza is a jeweler specializing in southwest jewelry and I’m a guitar-maker specialized in covering the house with dust and wood chips.  Because everyone reading this has this same dream (to live off of their art), I thought it would be interesting to chronicle just what it takes to make it happen (if it in fact ends up happening).
This year I’m turning fifty and Maritza is… (I’m not allowed to divulge this closely held secret).  I thought it was time in my life to give up the corporate world for the art world.  But as the wing-walkers used to say “Never let go of what you have until you’ve got hold of something else”.  So, I’m continuing to work in the computer world except that I’m telecommuting from my house.  I still work all day at my computer job, but at least I don’t waste time bathing and driving to work (sometimes I still bathe though, when Maritza complains).

So, to start at the beginning of our trip,  we packed up our rental house in Denver, Colorado. Unfortunately the truck I rented did not accommodate all of our personal belongings plus all the woodworking tools from my shop.  We had to rent a second truck that Maritza would drive and I would tow one of our cars behind my truck for the 7-hour trip.  Our other car we left with a previous neighbor then paid someone to drive here for us.  So, with the extra truck, extra gas and paying the guy to drive my other car, that cost us easily another thousand dollars.  Oh well, bad planning.

Front of our house
Our house was waiting for us when we got here and I was anxious to setup my shop in the two-car garage, which I did, until I started getting nasty looks from the neighbor across the street, so I closed the door to setup in private.  Glitch number two: the realtor forgot to mention that it is forbidden to do anything in the garage except park the car.  No pastimes, hobbies, businesses or monkey-business of any kind.  Hmmmm, that was NOT what I wanted.  So, I’m continuing to work in the garage clandestine style.  I sound-proofed it as best I could and figured I’d just do my thing until somebody complained.  So far, so good.

Making stuff is what we’re all good at.  Selling stuff is a completely different matter though.  Publish or perish.  We searched for a good place to sell our work on the weekends.  First we paid to be in a place that’s called “The Artist Tent” that operates on the weekends at a horse race track nearby.  We paid the three hundred dollars for the month.  Then we learned that everybody’s stuff keeps getting broken from the wind as well as being constantly covered in dust.  When it rains, the Artist Tent (imagine a big circus tent) becomes a raging river.  Worse than all of that, nobody was selling anything.  It seemed the tourists didn’t want to go out to the racetrack even though there was a free shuttle service.  We decided to write off the money we’d spent and find another place.

The Rail Yard
We found a location called the RailYard because it’s, well, a rail yard.  On Saturdays it’s a huge farmer’s market and on Sundays it’s an artists’ market.  We got a table for each of us and it was only $35, much better than the Artist Tent/River/Dustbowl/Wind tunnel and it’s indoors!!!  Yeah.  With air conditioning and heating and a bathroom.  Yeah.  Oh, speaking of air conditioning, the house we rented proudly boasted that it was equipped with air conditioning.  It’s not.  And we arrived in August, the hottest month of the year in New Mexico.  It has a swamp cooler which is more like a swamp and less like a cooler.  A very noisy swamp at that.  It’s basically a huge unit that dribbles water onto a filter and then has a fan behind it.  It doesn’t work.  It sounds like a tractor idling in the living-room.  But I digress.

Our first week of selling, Maritza did really well, like about seven hundred dollars.  The second and third weeks, not so much and the fourth week was about two hundred dollars.  But, little did we know, September starts the big tourist season for the year, so we’re optimistic things will improve.  Since my guitars sell for around five to six thousand dollars, I’m not expecting a lot of sales at the RailYard; for me it’s mostly exposure (the legal kind) and to let the local musicians know that I’m in town and what I do.  I’ve already gotten a couple hundred dollars worth of repair jobs.  There are a LOT of guitar players in Santa Fe.  So… fingers are crossed.

Maritza setting up at the RailYard

Jim at a show (we shared a tent.  that didn't work out 
so well :-) )

In addition to the RailYard, Maritza has also had several galleries express interest in her work.  That’s the best of all scenarios because then her work will sell and she doesn’t have to be there.  Of course the galleries take a giant commission, so we’re debating that approach at the moment.

So, that’s it for our first month.  A lot of activity and a little bit of sales; all in all not a bad start.

Jim with his assistant in the new guitar shop

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