Reflecting on Spanish Market 2011

August 11, 2011

Jason & Sean at Spanish Market 2011

Well, Jason and I just experienced our first Spanish Market as a collaborative team and it was a ride!  I actually got to speak on the Spanish Colonial Arts Society promotional video and one of the questions was “what makes this year’s Market special to you?”  I said that although it was my first Market, I was most excited to be publicly showing the works that my brother and I have created together.  On Friday night, each artist has the opportunity to show three favorite items for award consideration.   For our collaborative piece, we showed our Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe piece.  At first, it was a bit of an empty feeling to not receive any recognition for our work.  It’s not like we were expecting to win an award, but it was strange to put your best work out there and not get any commentary back.  But, the magic of Preview night is that you get to display your best work, stand with it, answer questions  and hear from the public.  We had the opportunity to hear directly from patrons, fellow artists and admirers.  They loved hearing our stories on the collaborative process and artistic vision.  They were genuinely impressed by our first major work together and encouraged us to continue on.  It was a perfect culmination to a year of hard work.  Of course, being able to peruse the amazing works of the other Market artists was very exciting as well.

Me & Alcario OteroBut, my favorite Preview moment had to be when senior retablo artist Alcario Otero recognized me from my show, New Mexican Santera!  He shook my hand and complimented me on the show.  I was just so flattered that he watched and really excited that he was supportive of the message of the show.  He commended me on creating the show.  We talked about show ideas.  And, he even asked me tips to minimize bubbles in the gesso.

Byron Martinez with his award winning piece

I also got a chance to share some Preview night jitters with some of my other first year artists, who I now count among my friends.  I was especially proud of my freshmen classmates, Byron Martinez (bulto carver) and Gene Gurule (tinsmith) who both took awards for their work.  Byron created a beautiful unpainted bulto of La Conquistadora.  He really captured her hands.

Gene Gurule with JasonJason and I spent some time with Gene, who explained to us that the reason he was there that night was because he was inspired after having my Grandmother, Angeline Delgado Martinez demonstrate in his classroom more than 30 years ago.  He was moved by her work and recalls many details of the encounter.  He continued to practice tin after the demonstration, but it took him nearly three decades to feel his work was worthy of Spanish Market.

Me & EricI was also inspired by the strength of returning bulto artist Eric Gonzales who had just lost his mother the Monday before Market.  He dedicated this Market to her.  He was very grateful to be at Market after a long stint away and reminds us all of the deeper meaning behind all of our work.

Then, during Market, the following Saturday and Sunday, we had dozens of people who recognized the Guadalupana from preview night.  It was nice that she was memorable among so many fine works.

But, I was pleasantly surprised to get a lot of positive feedback on a piece that I had done at the 11th hour.  I decided I wanted to submit one more piece to Preview for consideration in the small retablo category.  I had a small board on hand and had been working on an image of Doña Sebastiana.

Doña Sebastiana copyright © 2011 Sean Wells

(She is a fascinating figure—I will do a separate write up on her.   You can read more about my execution of her image in that article).  It was that image that garnered the most interest in my work at our booth over market weekend.  I would never have imagined that we would have collectors lining up at 7:30AM (you cannot start officially selling at Market until 8AM).  But, we did!  We made a quick hand-scribbled sign-up sheet and soon had several names.  The first couple had admired my Doña Sebastiana and La Conquistadora (the one I use for all of my marketing) and bought both!  It was  wonderful way to start Market.  Better yet, they allowed me to display the purchased items throughout the day while they enjoyed Market.  I was able to take several custom orders off the small retablo.  That little image ended up making a good Market into a great Market!  Jason just laughed—“Didn’t you just whip that up on Tuesday?”

Jason and I were so swamped the first day just talking with people about our work that we rarely got a chance to demonstrate.  On the second day, we did get to do a bit of demonstration and we really didn’t get a chance to do any visiting with fellow artist as we normally would.  But, that was certainly a good problem.  We saw many distant relatives, old school chums , family and friends.  We made some new friends of patrons and admirers.  You can view our gallery on our Facebook page, “Dos Artisanos.”  People were very excited to see a brother-sister doing collaborative work together and many actually said it was imperative that we continue our work.  They were also verbally thankful that we made such an effort to demonstrate the techniques, share history and invite questions.

I’ve helped Jason in the demonstration booth for many years.  In doing so, I have always tried to incorporate some graphics that tell some of our family history in tin.

Jason goofing in Angelina's crown

This year, since our grandmother, Angelina wasn’t up to attending Market with us (she’s 91), I told her I would bring her in spirit and made a giant banner of a photo I found of her posing with the 1944 Fiesta Court.  She was one of the princesses that year along with Peaches (the queen, we believe) and Viola. But, the best part about the presentation was that when she found out about the banner, she allowed me to  display the original crown she wore that she had designed and constructed from tin and accented with rhinestones.  People loved the banner, but nearly applauded when I would show the crown, often donning it or allowing people I thought might truly appreciate the experience to wear it themselves.  It was funny how many times I had to remind the husband or Dad that this was a real photo op!  I think every girl wants to wear a crown, especially a real one worn by a real princess!  Some shy visitors would turn me down, but most were tickled.  Several women said they had never worn a crown before.  Most broke into an impromptu regal wave.  Anyway, I love giving people ways to connect to the history, so it was a great vehicle to bring them into the story.

Martha Varoz Ewing implored me to attend the Sunday Morning Market Mass at the Saint Francis Basilica.  I dragged my feet thinking logistically, we would not have anyone to watch the booth.  Jas and I decided to go with it and left the booth unattended and went to Mass.  I’m so glad we did–It was the highlight of Market!  The artists are invited to bring a piece in to have it blessed.  Jason insisted I bring our giant Our Lady of Guadalupe collaborative.  He said it looked like Our Lady was walking around with legs because it was so big, no one could see me!  And, there was Jason with his delicate hollow tin cross which weighed about 2 ounces.  I teared up as we entered the Church in procession with the other artists and artworks.  We placed the art at the front altar.  I managed to sneak in my Grandmother’s crown to be blessed as well.  I thought she would appreciate that (and she was).   We listened to the bilingual mass.  It was just so moving.  The priest talked about how we were using our gifts to honor the Lord. Then, after the blessings, we gathered our pieces and processed out of the church and around the plaza.  I saw Martha and thanked her for encouraging me to attend.  She confessed to tearing up every time she attends.  Our Dad was filming for the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, so we made it a point to turn our artworks and walk slowly whenever we saw his camera!

Jason and I had an excellent Market.  Although it would have been icing on the cake to have sold our two large pieces (currently available at Tintero Workshop & Gallery), we had a great showing.  We are feeding on the energy you all gave us and are fired up to get started for next year.  We will be working on ways to find other avenues and outlets for our work in the meantime.

Jason demonstrates to on-lookersThank you to all the patrons, friends and family that came to show your support!  It is somewhat a labor of love, so to get encouragement for us to continue this work  means a lot to both of us.  We will look forward to Spanish Market 2012 and may even try entering some new categories this year!



  1. Yea for Sean and Jason. Great fun weekend and fabulous work. Loved the blog entry too.

  2. Congratulations to both you Sean and your brother Jason. Having watched your growth as a Santera and TV personality has been an honor!

  3. What happens if you took 4x 1300 at precisely the same time I had read which is what someone else had done to achieve results what might
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