Hidden treasures in Taos museum stores

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Hands down, Taos has some of the best museum shops in the Southwest. Tempo checked in with the museum folks to see what’s what in some of our favorite places for holiday shopping.

All but two of the museums are a short walk from Taos Plaza. The Blumenschein Home and Museum and the Harwood Museum of Art are both on Ledoux Street, a walk that will take you a couple of minutes west of the Plaza. Going in the same direction, the Martínez Hacienda is a drive of a few minutes west from the Plaza off Lower Ranchitos Road – three great places to start or finish your shopping sprees.

Kit Carson Museum is a walk of a few minutes east of the Plaza on Kit Carson Road, and Taos Art Museum at Fechin House is about a 10-minute walk north of the Plaza.

The Millicent Rogers Museum is the only outlying museum, about 4 miles north of Taos Plaza in El Prado, at 1504 Millicent Rogers Road.

Millicent Rogers Museum

Executive Director Caroline Fernald made a point of noting Millicent Rogers Museum’s store is for Taos locals as much as for Taos visitors.

“The museum shop always has original arts and crafts by local artists,” Fernald said. “Also, we have local Native American and Hispanic work – handmade ornaments, like little pueblo-girl doll ornaments. Be sure to check out the Christmas cards, with images from live artists. There’s a little beaded Santa I think I need to buy with my next paycheck.”

Fernald said the beaded Christmas tree and snowflake earrings for less than $50 are a sure bet for someone on your shopping list. Look for the scarves and hats and accessories, lots of children’s books and, for adults, books about art and histories of the Southwest.

The store has a wide range of pieces made in New Mexico and locally, Christmas-themed children’s books and cookbooks, vintage Native American jewelry and contemporary pieces.

This year’s Sugar Skull tea towels made in New Mexico are a fun basket liner, she said, and add in some pot holders out of Embudo. Do check out the online store as well, since there are some offerings online not in the El Prado museum store.

Museum membership entitles you to a 10 percent discount, so if you’re buying a big-ticket item, it’s definitely worth having a membership to save some bucks. The lowest membership fee is $50.

Taos Art Museum at Fechin House

Leslie Lancaster, the store manager, said locals love the Fechin house and studio and the shopping is a favorite. “We’ve basically got the store filled with museum-quality items, [and] 95 percent are local jewelry, cards, books and lots of Christmas stuff.”

The store is offering a raffle, which includes a painting of the gorge by Karyn DeBont called “Bottomless Gorge,” valued at $695. Tickets cost $3 apiece with discounts if you purchase multiple tickets. The second raffle item will be two books, and the third will be $30 in Coffee Spot gift certificates. The raffle starts Friday (Dec. 16) and runs through Dec. 23.

Ceramic artist Rachel Donner, great-granddaughter of Nicolai Fechin, and mixed media artist Claire Brandenburg will be in Nicolai Fechin’s Studio on Saturday (Dec. 17) from noon-4 p.m. to discuss their work and creative processes. Everyone is invited to join in for treats, refreshments and inspiring discussions with the artists. Donner and Brandenburg’s work in the gift shop will be 20 percent off starting tomorrow (Dec. 16) through Dec. 23.

Blumenschein Museum and Martínez Hacienda

Margo Beutler Gins, Taos Historic Museums board president of the last 10 months, said both museums’ shops will be open for the season and visitors will find the Martínez Hacienda newly re-mudded, just in time for the annual Memories in Lights, taking place Sunday (Dec. 18) from 3 to 5 p.m.

“I’ve got Father Daniels or Larry Martínez coming to do the blessing, and after will be the lighting of the tree,” she said. People buy an ornament in honor of a loved one’s memory and hang it on the tree in memoriam. The evening comes complete with caroling and refreshments of the season.

Be sure to check out Karen Hamilton’s stellar silver work at the Blumenschein museum store, Gins said. Additionally, Martínez Hacienda again offers great stocking stuffers, pot holders, books, ceramics, textiles and carvings, most all created by local Pueblo and Hispanic artisans.

Harwood Museum of Art

Amy Rankin, the Harwood’s head of programming and visitor services, says the Harwood Museum Store carries a wide range of items related to the Harwood’s collection, as well as work by local artisans like Questa santero Carlos Rael and Taoseña silversmith Julie Lake.

“Carlos does these great traditional retablos. He grinds his own pigments and carves his own boards. It’s all very traditional. And Julie is kind of a sculptress of very contemporary jewelry.” Rankin said the store is wall to wall with inspiring cards, calendars and artwork, art books, children’s books and histories for every taste and pocketbook.

Check with storekeepers Nora O’Keefe or Lesley Ivy, one of whom will be able to help find the perfect gift among the lithographs, fine art posters, santos and even out-of-print books.

Kit Carson Home & Museum

“We’re not your old Kit Carson Museum,” said Director Karen Douglas, who is very excited about this year’s store offerings of a “full selection of unique gifts, toys and books relating to the Southwest and Kit Carson, plus just general gifts for shoppers,” including smudging materials to start the new year off right.

The store features Santo Domingo Pueblo jeweler Fanny Garcia’s beaded work and period-specific toys, like wooden hobby horses, wooden kazoos and “super-fun, old-fashioned rulers and tops,” she said.

“We have a full line of really cool books for kids about mountain men, the Southwest and pioneers.

“Then there’s great shawls and scarves from a fair trade Guatemalan weaver in incredible colors for under $100, plus Pendletons and a Pendleton mug with beautiful American Indian patterns for only $18.

“We’ve really doubled our amount of merchandise and included stuffed animal puppets that are so well made and affordable, like the giant raven hand puppet.

“We all work hard on our shops because we need the money,” Douglas said, referring to all the museum shops in Taos. “And it’s also fun to do. And because we’re nonprofit, you can get a little tax break, so we can carry things at a lower price point. Anything to help these nonprofit shops in Taos.”

Where to find them

All museums closed Christmas Day and New Years Day, early closings Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

Blumenschein Home & Museum 10 a.m.-4 p.m., noon-4 p.m. Sun., closed Wed.-Thurs.

222 Ledoux St.

(575) 758-0505

La Hacienda del Los Martinez, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., noon-4 p.m. Sun., closed Wed.-Thurs.

708 Hacienda Road, off Lower Ranchitos

(575) 758-1000

Millicent Rogers Museum, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Mondays

1504 Millicent Rogers Road

(575) 758-2462

• The Harwood Museum of Art, Wed.-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sun noon-5 p.m.

238 Ledoux St.

(575) 758-9826

• Kit Carson Home & Museum, daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

113 Kit Carson Road

(575) 758-4945

• Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte

(575) 758-2690

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