Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas In Taos & the Taos Pueblo Deer Dance

Leaping Deer by Ha So Da Narciso Abeyta Silkscreen, 
(we have 2 available at Two Graces Plaza Gallery, a numbered edition and an Artist Proof)

 Holly & I have a real love for Taos and the lessons we learn here every day.
This year our Christmas like so many others was a time of reflection rather than of gift giving. No presents under the tree for either of us. Don’t get me wrong we were sent gifts from friends and family. We enjoyed a nice evening out for dinner together, (at Taos Inn’s Doc Martins). Friends dropped off tins of homemade cookies & fudge to us at the shop, and we received many lovely Christmas Cards this year.
We went out to the forest a few days earlier, and cut down a beautiful 10 foot tall Blue Spruce tree which we decorated with the many ornaments that remind us of each and everyone we know and love.
The morning of Christmas Eve a Mountain Bluebird enjoyed the dried Blue Corn on the cob I’d left outside. After a long day at Two Graces Plaza Gallery as I was closing up shop I heard someone shout out to me from the dark “Merry Christmas Robert”. That evening rather than partake in the enormous bonfires at Taos Pueblo or Las Posadas and Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at San Francisco de Asis Church, we chose to stay in and order take out from the new local Chinese Restaurant, (an old family tradition of Chinese food on the eve of Christmas). At home we watched the video of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and drifted off to sleep, well, I fell asleep and awoke as the movie ended to find Holly sitting next to me with tears in her eyes.
Christmas Eve Bonfire

 The next morning on Christmas day we decided to visit Taos Pueblo for the annual Deer Dance. The local newspaper published a 10AM start time, but I knew this would be much too early. Leaving the house at 11:30 we picked up a neighbor to join us. Once at the Village we parked easily and found the entrance gate to be closed! Turned out that we were not to enter until Noon after some private ceremonies had been held at the Pueblo.
Just so you know and a reminder to myself for next time, things really don’t start until after 1:30PM, with the arrival of the Deer around 3PM.
We spoke with some of the locals as we all waited, scattered around the Village, and made the best of a sunny afternoon.
Vintage Photograph of a pair of Taos Pueblo Kivas

 The most we could see were the Kivas (sometimes referred to as Estufa) where people were gathering in the distance off limits to non-tribal members. This year even the southside/winter side of the Pueblo was off-limits, as the Koshare ushered people back over the bridge to the Northside.
Vigil Pueblo Painting Very much like the Koshare at Taos Pueblo

 The Koshare sometimes referred to as ‘clowns’ painted with white and black stripes of clay and soot over their bodies are a society, which has very specific duties of keeping things in order, visitors should give them utmost respect and stay out of their way.
As the Koshare ran from door to door, bringing messages to the Villagers that live there, we waited and watched.
This year there were a lot of foreigners all over the Pueblo, not really understanding the unwritten rules of being quiet and respectful, they seemed to be running amuck. I witnessed at least 3 people with cameras taking photographs, which is strictly forbidden. There were people climbing over and onto walls that were supposed to keep people out, not become an obstacle of which to clamber onto and over.
The procession as painted by Helen Blumenschein

 The first of the dancers mostly women dressed in finery, and a few men gathered at the eastern wall on the northside. They quickly formed a line and soon began to dance in front of the San Geronimo Pueblo Church, perhaps as a welcoming to the deer yet to come.
 A Vintage Photograph of The San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo
Early 1900's photograph of a Taos Maiden

 The women wear beautiful handmade white boot moccasins very specific to the Pueblo of Taos, pinned to ears and dresses wonderful vintage costume jewelry as well as silver & turquoise jewelry, and around necks each with a special necklace. The Koshare intermingle with this ceremonial dance, which eventually moves to in front of the Northside/Summer building. As I watched, perhaps a little too close to the front of the viewing spectators, a Koshare approached me and quickly removed my hat, which he then wore into a tet-a-tet with one of his comrades who had also chosen a hat from another guest. Knowing full well this would not last very long and that I would eventually get my hat back, I stood and enjoyed their acting. This was rather special to me, and soon, quite politely my hat was returned.
Once this group of dancers finished and returned to where they had come from, we waited.
Painting by Helen Blumenschein of Deer Dance depicting Maiden Dancers in colorful dress encircling Deer, with Deer Maidens at center with Koshare Eagle, off to the right are the Koshare with a smokey bonfire!

 The Koshare soon returned (now wearing eagle and bird of prey pelts around their necks) and began to build the smokiest bonfire you could ever imagine. Now taking on the role of Pueblo Angel Messengers. The dancers returned once again (in front of the Church) this time with the smoke blowing towards them. I thought of this as purifying incense wafting over them similar to the smoke from Midnight Mass in the Churches back east.
Early Illustration of Taos Pueblo Deer

 From the Kiva men and boys began to emerge wearing the freshly skinned hides of deer from the forests around us. I shouldn’t call it wearing these hides, because they actually are embodying the animal, they have become the Deer. Leading the group are 2 White Deer with enormous antlers, they walk with a stick in each hand creating the look of a deer on all fours. These deer are followed by an assortment of Deer, Buffalo, Elk, and Antelope. Some but not all of the skins are fresh, from which you can smell a heavy odor as they pass by, their steps like that of the prancing animal itself. This Deer procession is led into the circle of dancers, where 2 Deer Maidens (distinguished from the other women by their dress and parrot feather headdress) have now welcomed them to join the People of the Village.
Painting by Ernest Blumenschein of Deer Dance, note the White Deer towards the bottom.

 There were some Deer with antlers so large that they needed the support of the Pueblo men to keep them from toppling over. Imagine trying to dance with 50 pound (or more) antlers on your head! The Koshare ‘shot’ small arrows at the Deer and quickly carried their heavy prey out of the circle.
 This had now built up to an enormous circle of Deer Dancers, Koshare, Maidens, Men & Women all gathered giving thanks to the wonderful creatures of the forest.
Another awe struck Christmas at Taos Pueblo Deer Dance. We merged with the other Visitors surrounding the dancers trying to get a view over others heads. From where we stood the bobbing of deer antlers was about as much as we could see.
Another reminder to visitors, the Deer Dance is a special ceremony to be able to view, it has probably changed through the years, but not by much. This continues to be one of the most untouched and true forms of ceremonies by an indigenous people in the entire world. I remain thankful that we are allowed to witness this sacred event, it is not my intention to give away secrets of the Deer Dance only to give a report of the things I have seen in my lifetime.
As my legs began to buckle out from under me, even with the help of a cane, we quietly left Taos Pueblo.

A Flicker wintering in Taos. 
The flicker is a sacred bird, and whenever I see one seems to be bringing a very strong positive message.

Stopping into the Adobe Bar at Taos Inn for a snack and a hot toddy on the way home was a nice way to decompress.
Once home we enjoyed collaborating on cooking a Duck for dinner with a Cherry Glaze and roasted root vegetables from the Taos Pueblo Farmers Market.
Settling in for the night with dessert of far too many cookies and fudge, we watched another movie and fell off to sleep once more.

The Images here are used to illustrate this story in order for people who have never been to Taos and who cannot possibly imagine just how visual this experience is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Our Christmas Tree this year, which is full of ornaments given to us from Family & Friends, each a treasure and memory of someone dear to us.
We go out to State Forest Road 5 and bring our sleds, at this time of year it's a great place to go sledding on the mountain slopes.
The following recipes are from my Mom and my Grandmother, I hope you enjoy them.
Candy Cane Cookies

½ Cup Shortening
½ Cup Butter
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Cream this together and add
2 ½ Cups Flour
Mix this together and half the dough
Add a bit of Red Food Coloring to one half
roll out the dough into long snakes
about ½” or smaller in width
Cut these snakes into 4” sections you’ll then
twist the white and red dough together
and bend it into a ‘Candy Cane’ shape
Bake at 375 up to 9 Minutes
While still hot sprinkle this mixture over the top and bottom of your cookies
Combine 4 real Sugar Candy Canes crushed and mixed with ½ Cup of Powdered Sugar
This makes about 4 dozen cookies!


Greek Half Moon Cookies

2/3 Cup Ground Almonds
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 ½ Sticks Butter
1 Egg White
Cream this together and add
1 ½ Cups Flour
¼ Teaspoon Clove
small pinch of Salt
Mix this together and shape into Crescents
Bake at 325 for 15-20 Minutes
Hot out of the oven dust top and bottom with
Powdered Sugar that you’ve added
½ Teaspoon Cinnamon into


ToTo’s Chocolate Spice Cookies

3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Shortening
1/4 Cup Butter
Cream this together and add
1 Egg
½ Cup Milk
Mix this together and add
2 Tablespoons Baking Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Flour
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Clove
½ Teaspoon Allspice
½ Cup Walnuts
Mix this together and roll into balls the size of half an egg
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes
When cool frost them with a chocolate frosting
½ Teaspoon of Meringue Powder
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons water
¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract


Above are my Gingerbread Cookies, I made the Keith Haring style Barking Dog and the Snoopy Cookie Cutter myself.
The recipe for the Gingerbread Cookies had been posted in a blog much earlier, simply type into the search engine at the top left Gingerbread Cookies and that recipe will show up, 
thank you and Merry Christmas.
Just in case you need more cookies here's one more recipe, sorry I don't have a picture of these.
Sesame Seed Cookies

¼ Cup Shortening
½ Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
Cream this together and add
2 ½ Tablespoons Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Cups Flour
Mix this together and form into ovals smaller than an egg
Roll these into a bowl of sesame seeds
Bake at 400 for 10 – 15 Minutes

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Southwestern Christmas Stockings and a Christmas Story

 Recently I had this brilliant idea to make Christmas stockings with old navajo weavings. Thanks to our friend Julie Cloutman of Taos Fiber Arts we were able to have these made by her with some 'cutter' weavings and navajo rugs that we had in storage. Right now at Two Graces Plaza Gallery we currently have 11 (10 actually, one just sold) different ones, they are priced at 75.00 each, (3 more will trickle into the shop this week fro Santa's elf). With a quick search of the internet I soon learned that someone else is making these as well, (with a very Santa Fe price if you know what I mean). 
These are priced right and made right here in Taos, New Mexico from vintage  rugs.
Just look at how great they look over a classic Southwest Kiva Fireplace!!!
This single one above is SOLD, (thank you).
 These are all 11 patterns, each very unique, (I expect to have 3 more during the week). Contact us before Wednesday for delivery before Christmas outside NM, at 575-758-4101 or email r2c2graces@gmail.com or just stop in and shop at our lovely store here by the San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos. We are open every day, (except Christmas), and I'm thinking of staying open late on Christmas Eve, but we'll see how things go.
"A Christmas Story"
One year we were celebrating Christmas with some of my family in England, they rented a National Trust Home in the countryside of the Lakes District near Windermere and the home of Beatrix Potter. We had to take a ferry to get to the house we were to stay at. The house had a coal burning stove to cook on and which to heat the house. An upstairs had enough bedrooms for the group of us. My sister had chosen this particular area that Christmas as it was known to be one of the few places where it could possibly snow for Christmas (in England), which it actually did. Nearby too are the stone circles of Castlerigg which we visited on the Winter Solstice and the original Gingerbread shop in Grasmere. Now of course all of this made for an incredibly wonderful Christmas Holiday with many adventures. The story which relates to Christmas stockings unfolds like this. 
On Christmas Eve after dinner we played board games with my nephew & niece and their parents, during which I told the children that if they had at all been naughty that year that there would be Coal left in their stockings from Father Christmas. My Niece was horrified and assured me that could never happen to her. With eyes wide open, sleep finally overcame her and she was carried upstairs to her room.
As everyone adjourned themselves off to bed, I waited a bit until certain all were asleep. With a lump of coal from the stove placed safely into my own Christmas Stocking, I went back to bed. Yes, I was tempted to put coal in everyone's stockings but mine, but I thought the better of it.
In the morning the children were up and ready to open presents and empty their stockings which Mom & Dad had also, snuck downstairs at some point and filled with gifts. As I emptied my stocking onto the floor a loan lump of coal fell out to the great JOY of my niece who gleefully exclaimed, "Uncle Robert has been VERY, very Naughty and has gotten Coal from Father Christmas" I turned to her and asked, "What did you get?" She tipped the contents of her stocking onto the floor and announced that she had no such thing and had been very good, that it was not her but me, Uncle Robert who is indeed the naughtiest one of all. I've always been glad I decided to make myself out to be the naughty one, it made her Christmas that year.
A Very Merry Christmas to you all, may you be Happy and Healthy in the New Year, and if you must be naughty do it in a way that will put a smile on someone's face, wink, wink...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shopping at Two Graces Vol. 9: Vintage Curios and Antiques


This post is inspired by our recent inclusion in the Taos News Tempo section "Wish List". The response of which has been tremendous, everyone here in Taos has seen it and comments about how wonderful our items looked in the local newspaper keep coming our way, so thank you Taos News and the people who work so hard there.
I post these items from our store Two Graces Plaza Gallery to show you the range of the curios we carry. We also carry vintage Pueblo Pottery from New Mexico and Arizona, Vintage Fred Harvey Jewelry, Contemporary jewelry from local Taos craftspeople, and Kachinas (as you can see from the many blogs about them). 
We specialize in rare and out of print books of the southwest, New Mexico, Taos, Native American, Art, Photography, Hispanic Authors, herbal, flora and fauna, and spirituality/religion. The books are sold in the store and on Amazon.com under TwoGraces and ThePlazaGallery, where you can find in the amazon search engine our inventory.
We are also a local oriented Art Gallery featuring the artwork of proprietors Holly Sievers and Robert Cafazzo.
As you will see from the photographs, we have a lot of great merchandise.

Large Mary Witkop Micaceous Clay with horsehair with handle and spout signed and marked 2000 Ranchos de Taos 1,500. small highly polished Mary Witkop micaceous pot with horsehair 250.
Lalique style crystal bowl and American pottery
Vintage Altamira Bison Cave Painting souvenir dish
Porcelain Deer on turquoise painted base SOLD
For the dog lover Chalk Shepard, Bonzo terrier at fire hydrant, 2 pair Salt and Pepper Shakers small and Bonzo Dogs
Vintage Homer Laughlin Harlequin, various pieces, some Fiestaware also available
A great deal of the turquoise Harlequin has been sold to a family in Australia!
We expect to soon have more...   ...and much more has arrived in Yellow, Blue, Turquoise and Dusty Rose.
Bright orange set of espresso cups and saucers
Vintage Salt And Pepper Shakers Donkey, Apple, Pear, Cactus, Mickey Mouse, plastic Cats

Vintage Frozen Charlotte dolls some pairs, some singles
the 2 pairs of indian boy and girl have both SOLD
Vintage porcelain Wedding Cake Toppers, (we had them on all the tables at our wedding many years ago)
Neon Blue Pepsi Cola sign
Philadelphia Eagle Bronze sign with great patina
assorted Flower designer frogs
Candles and candlesticks, Vintage Nambe pair, 
(fancy candles and small tin 'flower' candlestick pair SOLD)

Copper Bowls Miners slug copper handmade lucky cover dish, 1930's era Fred harvey Copper bowl, hand hammered kidney shaped copper bowl

Vintage Fred Harvey Copper Bowl ca. early 1930's with cloud and rain stamping, extremely RARE 650.
Glass Quarter Moon Decanter bottle, Quarter Moon Cake pan SOLD
Assorted Vintage Cookie Cutters and madeline mold tins in Box (Sold)

Vintage Biscuit Tins or Cookie Tins (Pure Lard Tin SOLD)

Metal Horse, Eagle (large or small) Welsh Door Dragon SOLD, Buffalo Nickel dish, Water Sprite statuette, Angel Matchstick holderSOLD
Vintage Windmills Handmade rusty arty one by Alan Hart

These are the LAST of the old stock Tin Nicho Frames

Tramp Art Crown of Thorns Frame (near perfect) with tin type of man with hat holding dog which has slightly blurred from moving during photo exposure SOLD
tri colored Painted Tramp Art Frame for Tin Types, and pair of Tram Art Frames

Small Tramp Art Frame, reproduction Tramp Art Frame, Wall Pocket Tramp Art, Very early New Mexico Tin Frame, Tin Wall Candle sconce

Hand Made early Maple Salt Box, Black Forest Bear Knick Knack Shelf

Shallow relief carved prancing deer plaque from the Charles Reynolds Estate
Handmade small Felix the Cat shelf with tin work
The Angel San Raphael by Anita Romero Jones, purchase at Santa Fe Spanish Market ca 1990, standing on Tramp Art Shelf with heart details
Jim Wagner House Angel, hand carved and painted, rare and beautiful SOLD

Vintage and new Prison Art, Lamp, Heart topped box, large and small heart frames, standing Cross, pair of baby booties, made from old cigarette packages and gum wrappers, true prison art!
pair of Memory Jugs larger one from Northwest coast with shells, smaller one with broken crockery pottery and the eye... 

Vintage Black Americana Bottle Cap Chip and dip Figures (the one to the far left is SOLD), there's also a butlers brush 
Bottle Cap Art 2 large chain links, Bottlecap snake, bottlecap basket

Vintage Art supplies and ledger books

Vintage taxidermy Birds, BlueJay in scenic box, small wren, and South African Turquoise feathered bird
Crystal Rock Bookends, and TinTin And Snowy Bookends extremely Rare
 Vintage Globe Banks, Old Atlas of the World book, and map of Arizona/New Mexico SOLD
 Selection of Vintage Donkeys, the 2 in the center, art deco one to the right are SOLD
 A selection of Vintage Bird items, the woodpecker is metal and picks up toothpicks from his perch
Vintage Putz Cows (the 3 cows to the front right are SOLD), and large Bull Hand carved and signed
Vintage Leopard Jaguar Folk Art from Mexico (Dancing Jaguar SOLD)
 Jaguar Artist piece
 Jumpin Jack carved toy and cut out toy
 Vintage Handmade cutout wooden Mickey Mouse and Popeye Folk Art
 Vintage Crocheted Mickey Mouse and Sunrise Kachina, seated in an Adirondack Twig Chair (signed)
 Sock Monkey El Marriacchi SOLD
Leah Benau Shaker style Cat Doll handmade by a local Taos craftperson in a willow chair
 Lost Glove critters by Rebecca Sievers each one of a kind
 Bear Sculpture, light weight concrete casting
 3 Acoma Pottery owls, 2 are SOLD, one left, Wooden Owl by Dan O'Hagan
 Wind-up Donkey, Bear and Duck on a bike tin toy, squeak toy Scottie Dog with remote battery control
 Poosh Clown Pinball game SOLD
 Andy Warhol Superstar Collectible 'action' figures MIB
All Vintage, Pair of Mom and Dad Skookum Dolls with Baby, Pair of Boy and Girl Bully Good Skookum dolls Mint in Box, Pair of nesting dolls in felt cradle, 2 mini baby Skookum Mailers
 Skookum Dolls 1930-1950's (Snookum, Bully Good) some with shoe labels some with plastic shoes
 2 pair of Vintage Navajo Dolls and 3 Vintage Navajo Zuni style Pincushion Dolls
 Selection of Vintage Indian Curios: wooden bust, Cigar Store style Indian, Frozen Charlotte pairs large and small, Singing Boy and Girl, Cowboy and Cowgirl ceramic or porcelain dolls, Little Indian Boy, canoe tin toy, and Bucking Bronco Wind-up toy with box
 Vintage Glass and Porcelain Curio Canoes, Tin wind-up toy canoe SOLD and 2 pincushion canoes
Vintage Birch Bark Canoe selection with porcupine quill work
 Argillite Beaver Bookends pair (chipped), Japan ceramic Totem Pole, carved Steallite stone eskimo in canoe with seal on base, wooden carved Vintage Totem Poles, argillite round box with lid (chipped)
 Santa Anna Pueblo wooden handmade crosses with straw inlay and turquoise pcs priced at 20.,30.,40., also a few pottery crosses from Oaxaca Mexico
 local Cordova, NM Carvings vintage Sabanita Lopez Ortiz
 Our Lady wooden carved probably Guatamela
 Repurposed gilded Nicho with doors open or closed, the Madonna has been sold separately.
 Locally Made Vintage Our Lady Nicho SOLD
 Selection of small vintage religious statues
San Simon Champion of the Hopeless, carved wood in chair
Hollow, one sided metal Jesus and Mary figures 10.99 each
Large Painted Concrete Buddha, gilded Buddha headSOLD, wooden carved Quan Yin, brass Buddha Head, Resin Buddha
Statue of Liberty Banks and such