I went to Santa Fe after Los Angeles for the International Academy of Ceramics Assembly held there. This assembly is held in a different city each year. In 2010 it was Paris while in 2014 it will be Dublin and 2016 in Barcelona then 2018 in Taipei. Each city hosts the conference in its own style rather than any pre-determined way so each time it is different and delegates ‘go with the flow’ of the region/country. The conference was principally held in the La Fonda Hotel which, like all buildings in Santa Fe is adobe. The hotel is old, has an American heritage listing and is very grand.
Outside on the street was parked the Airstream – a 30foot, 1969 aluminiummodernist style caravan that for the past 11 years has served as a nomadic pottery (in American this means tableware) gallery on wheels.
The owner – Aleghany Meadows – sees it as an economically viable way to market a variety of potters work and he drives it around the USA to a variety of conferences, craft fairs and other interesting venues. I have read about it at intervals over the years but this was my first acquaintance. Here are some images…
In Santa Fe is a long street called Canyon Road lined almost exclusively with many dozens of galleries. Some have tourist stuff of a Native American bent – extremely colourful and decorative souvenirs in every medium imaginable. However some have first class work and are worth a look.
Santa Fe Clay is (as most in America) a private (read ‘for profit’ in American) business that does the same job as the ASP and other Society teaching structures around New Zealand. Avra Leodas, is owner and has been in business there for many years, and it seems to be thriving. She has several full-time and part-time staff as well as visiting workshop leaders from all across the USA and occasionally from off-shore. Santa Fe Clay is located in the Railway Arts Area – no train link direct to Santa Fe any more just all those old and large railway buildings which has been turned into an arts area separate from the town centre activity that is more dedicated to Native American arts. The Railway Arts area has many private galleries (read ‘for profit’) and shops selling Indian or South American textiles, hand carved furniture, artisan jewellery etc and one large, very contemporary public one (read ‘not for profit,’ in American), where I saw Ai WeiWei’s paint covered ceramic jars from the ? Dynasty, in addition to photographic installations, contemporary sculpture, video and animation art and, good heavens, even a couple of paintings. The area would take at least a whole day, maybe two, to thoroughly explore.
Santa Fe Clay is an amalgam of many things all of which are complementary in American terms. The commercial area sells, tools, clay, kilns, books and ready prepared glazes along with a large space for bulk clays of many types and glaze ingredients for those preferring the DIY approach. There is a spacious teaching/working area – with far more tables and fewer wheels than we’d find in NZ (Paul Scott says he has never seen a teaching area like the ASP with so many wheels per sq m.!). Then there’s an exhibition area that can be expanded when necessary and Avra shows many of the best the USA has to offer on a regular basis, (there is an eighteen month programme in place) covering every expression imaginable even to raw clay, large scale installations, by Walter McConnell, where it will all be shovelled up in the end. So quality, rather than profit, is the aim here. The exhibition gallery area is simple but well presented in the sort of spaces one would find in the home. There are regular exhibitions and she keeps the unsold work in another display area after the exhibition is completed for some months. This section is busier than the current exhibits but serves as useful references and sells steadily. Also there is a dedicated packing area for works to be shipped anywhere with every type of packaging imaginable. Finally there is a selling area where regular attendees to the classes and workshops’ work is offered for sale. This displays everything from mugs through to objects and it all feels very up to date. It’s a one-stop-shop for anything you would like to do in clay in Santa Fe.