The Village of Arroyo Seco is getting ready for the summer onslaught of hikers, bikers and general escapees from the hot flatlands of summer. And positioned seven miles north of Taos, Seco (as locals refer to the village) is the perfect stopover for everyone coming to and from Taos Ski Valley or Valdez. Running errands, stopping for a bite or shopping, it's great to sample Seco's offerings.
One place that practically spells "fun" is Santos Y Mas, a gallery cum artisanal gift shop with a great selection of hand-crafted Northern New Mexico folk art by well-loved local artists. Among the 40-plus locals they carry are Erica Collins, BeckieLee Couture, Jesse Furr, Lynn Garlick, Kathy Baucom Lane, Lynda Jasper-Vogel, Caroline Herbel, Olivia "Live" Johnson, Lloyd Rivera and Santos Y Mas owners-artists Patricia and Pat Reza.
"We've been here nine years this October," Pat Reza said about the shop he and wife Patricia opened. "We celebrate with a grand opening every Halloween. Everyone wears costumes and we throw a big party."
Both Rezas do recycled art and Patricia adds up-scaled acrylic reverse painting on glass to her repertoire. Her "Gigi Girls" arms and torsos are wine openers dressed in skirts of various glass lamp shades atop recycled blue bottles. "Friends of Gigi Girls" are creatures composed of metal tins with light bulb heads and noses, topped by various neckerchiefs and hats.
Pat Reza's license-plate dust pans fly out the door, they said, typically with visitors collecting their own state license. Often a turquoise Taos license-plate dust pan or Taos front plate is just what the magpies ordered for a visitor's memento or that special corner of a wall.
Lynn Garlick and Kathy Baucom Lane's hand-painted retablos of saints, angels and blessings come in three sizes: the traditional 12-inch, the ornamental 4- to 6-inch and the personal pocket santo that is 3 inches high.
Garlick says of her work in an online statement, "The diverse cultures and the landscape of this part of the country deeply and yet unintentionally influenced me both artistically and spiritually. I am nourished by Northern New Mexico's rugged wildness and rawness. The profound devotion found in the different traditions and faiths here are unusual and inspiring."
Garlick handcarves and paints her original designs on tradition-dictated ponderosa pine planks, which she decoupages with prints of her original imagery, using an ancient Italian altar screen technique of medieval Europe.
"I feel so fortunate to do this art/business," Garlick adds. "The saints, angels and prayers have changed and blessed my life. My hope is that they touch and bless others as well."
Lane was raised among her parents' El Prado collection of work by Taos santera Lydia Garcia. "The simple beauty of this form of folk art and, more importantly, the meaning behind the retablos themselves, inspired me to begin painting my own retablos," Lane says in her online artist statement. "I begin my work by researching the stories behind the saints. This gives me a sense of the emotions, the feelings, I wish to convey with the facial features and poses of the saints. Also, I then use bright colors in my images to convey the sense of hope and joy that is illustrated by the lives of the saints." She says she has come to see retablos as "the representation of how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things."
Another popular local is fiber artist Annie James, who works in sheep sculptures and felted items from the wool of Churro sheep, the first domesticated sheep in the New World, brought from the Iberian peninsula to the Southwest during the Spanish Conquest.
James's adorable little sheep feature a garland of roses or chile peppers or spring vines, hence the names Chili Sheep, Rosebud Sheep and Spring Sheep.
" My love of whimsy comes through in my sheep and elf creations," James said in her artist statement. "I am inspired by nature and live on a little piece of land, 'The Plum Thicket,' in Arroyo Hondo, which has a spring and ancient terraces built by Indians. Here I grow my own food, have rabbits, chickens and ducks and a wonderful sense of serenity. A very fitting place for a merry muse."
Clara Foshee's stained glass is also a big seller as are woodworker Terry Wolff's coloring books, the newest being "Zen Taos" with dragons and dinosaurs. The Rezas will be starting up Meet the Artist monthly demos again this summer, so look for previews here or in Tempo's Creative Edge.
Santos Y Mas is at 484 State Road 150 in Arroyo Seco. Call (575) 776-2088 or see Facebook and santosymas.com.