The Santa Fe International Folk Art Fair
Photo: The Santa Fe International Folk Art Market
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At the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, every handicraft tells a story.
In a remote desert village in Pakistan, a collective of women—many of them widowed, most illiterate—stitch geometric-patterned quilts to sell, and use the proceeds to send their children to school. Members of a women's cooperative in Zambia are sharing a new plow and some goats thanks to the money they've earned from their sturdy, handwoven baskets. Sales of vibrant beaded necklaces helped indigenous women in Ecuador start a microloan service. Of the thousands of treasures on offer at the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, many are created by women devoting traditional handicraft skills to a heroic task: raising themselves or their communities out of poverty.

Bringing together some 170 artisans (more than half of them women) from 52 countries, the market unfolds on Santa Fe's Museum Hill, amid panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Prices range from $5 into the tens of thousands, with 90 percent of the proceeds going home with the artists. The work includes exquisite embroidered bedspreads and shawls from India (by the all-women collective Self Help Enterprise), silk-and-cotton rugs and wall hangings made in Laos according to 1,200-year-old traditions, and stunning baskets woven and dyed with organic materials—like leaves, berries, and herbs—from the Darien Rainforest in Panama.

"Right now there's a hunger in our culture to move away from the mass-produced and toward the handmade, to feel that sense of connection to the things around us," says Charlene Cerny, executive director of the market. "Knowing the story behind the object is like having the bragging rights to it." If you can't get to Santa Fe go to FolkArtMarket.org to browse the handicrafts available for order online. — Jessica Winter

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