Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., jewelers, weavers, carvers and other Native American craftsmen are proudly exhibiting their handcrafted work to guests at the Yanaguana Indian Arts Market at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
More than 20 artisans proudly displayed their jewelry, woven blankets, woodcarving, baskets, ledger art, beadwork and pottery at the market, named in honor of the San Antonio River’s earliest known name given by the Payaya people who inhabited the region.
Guests were eager to talk with Michael Horse, well-known as Deputy Tommy "Hawk" Hill on the 1990s TV show, Twin Peaks, who was selling handmade jewelry that incorporates turquoise, coral, oyster shells and other materials.
Despite the groundbreaking excitement the TV show inspired and his work on other shows and films, he said he was an artist at heart.
“I got into acting by accident – I learned about making jewelry from my uncles,” he said.
Horse, who has Maki and Zuni heritage and currently resides in Berkeley, California, also is a collector and an alumnus of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
He has been working with ledger art, painting on historic maps and other documents from the 1800s and early 1900s, some of which he had on display at the show.
“Steve (Karr) and Pam (Hannah), who helped build the museum, asked if I could come to do the first show,” Horse said. “The market has been going very well. I’m surprised by how knowledgeable and kind people have been.”
At another table, awe-inspiring woodwork carved from juniper and some from redwood presided over delicate selections of jewelry.
Harry Benally, who hails from a Navajo reservation north of Gallup, New Mexico, creates the unique Navajo folk art sculptures using woodcarving tools, sandpaper, axes, machinery and grinders.
All the work represents his late mother and her life story and the carvings go from miniature to life-sized, he explained.
“The show has been going well so far–people have been asking lots of questions about woodwork,” he said, recognizing a sculpture of a Hopi corn maiden inlaid with natural turquoise.
The artists at the show journey from all over the country, though the majority are from the West.
“Part of our institutional message is to promote the arts of the American West and to support native artists,” said Jennifer Chowning, senior head of education and programs at the Briscoe Museum.
“With all the artists participating, there is no booth fee and they are responsible for getting here,” she said. “We want to get people who are interested in the maker of the artwork. Here, you can actually talk to the artist. If you want to buy something, you can ask them directly.”
While this is the first time for the Yanaguana Indian Arts Market in San Antonio, it's a great opportunity for artists who have visited other venues, including the Santa Fe Indian Market, to find a new, intimate place to market their art in San Antonio.
"A lot of the artists showing here know each other and have turned other arts onto this event," Chowning said. "Since this is our first event, we have been walking around talking to all the artists to see what has worked for them and what they would like to see next year."
The event already had drawn shoppers from California and across the country by mid-morning.
Anthony Lovato, a jewelry maker who works with his sons, Joel and Cordell Pajarito, had two slabs of natural sandstone on hand to show visitors how the craftsmen create the designs for their work.
“We carve the negative design into the stone and pour molten silver into the top,” he said. “All the designs are done backwards. About 80 percent of the time, the casting comes through. Everything we do is one-of-a-kind casting. There is nothing else like it in the world.”
One of the sterling silver bracelets displays a ring of horses around the outside, while the inside is lined with engravings of the buffalo hunt and the word “Kewa,” the Indian name for the Santo Domingo Pueblo.
Lovato said about 80% of the customers buying the silver bracelets are women, though the family offers men’s and youth sizes, as well.
The image of Davy Crockett carrying an Indian princess emerged from a clay canteen at Jody and Susan Folwell’s pottery display, among other creations.
Hailing from the Santa Clara Pueblo Indians in Espanola, New Mexico, Susan was happy to say the museum was purchasing the pot, whose opposite side displayed the yellow rose of Texas.
Susan said she added her own elements to the pot based on inspiration from an old comic strip, painting the Indian princess in a yellow dress, giving her light skin reminiscent of early Hollywood movies and adding plenty of fringe to Crockett’s uniform.
“Davy Crockett was adamantly against Native Americans being on reservations,” she said. “In creating this piece, I wanted to make her native and give him a masculine, simple feel.”
She said business had been good at the Yanaguana Market that afternoon.
“It takes years of building clientele, and Native art is more of its own niche,” she said. “I work together a lot with my mother on collaborative work. Pueblo pottery is particularly family-oriented.”