Austin Cope, Cortez
By Wendy Watkins
Strolling through the Farmers Market recently, I ran into a young friend, a graduate of M-CHS, who was home from college for the summer. Now a student at Oberlin in Ohio, Austin Cope and I discussed his on-campus experience and how it compared to returning home. Expecting the typical scorn that many graduates, not just those from Cortez, have for their home towns after getting a taste of the larger world, Austin surprised me with his affection for Cortez and his insights into his community.
“I think Cortez is a really diverse community in a lot of different ways. The places I’ve lived after leaving Cortez, I never really realized that until I came back. It’s diverse politically, culturally, racially. There are very few things that bring a whole bunch of people together, but the Farmers Market is one of them. You can come here and really get a cross-section of the community, buying and selling side by side.”
Newcomers and old timers: they’re all there on Saturday mornings. But it’s not just the people who are diverse. Threaded throughout the produce stands are 14 different stands that showcase the artistic side of Cortez and flash and lure like baubles in a grocery basket. You may not be able to eat what these vendors offer, but they will nourish you in the way only beautiful things can.
One of the market’s oldest stands is Rob and Mary Wilson’s Art of the Southwest. The Wilsons have developed an elaborate and time-consuming method of making art from dry seasoned gourds. They burn images patterned after rock art from the Four Corners region onto the gourds with a woodworking iron; others they do in wax relief. Pots of all sizes – each one a unique creation - rattles, candle holders, one-of-a-kind incense burners, magnets, and my personal favorite, thundergourds (you’ll have to find out for yourself), are on display every Saturday. The Wilsons love to explain their craft. Stop by to learn more and to get a step-by-step tour.
Valerina Sampson of Lone Wolf Art has a dazzling selection of native jewelry. Necklace and earring sets, delicate to chunky, made with gemstones, beads, and shells are beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. Bracelets, more earrings and a variety of other wearable art are also available at her stand.
Newcomer Shane Snyder was at the market last Saturday. Snyder, twentysomething, is in a reggae band called Wake Up Laughing, which plays in and around Durango. Curious as to why he was at the market since he didn’t appear to be buying, just enjoying the people, I asked him about what he takes away from the farmer’s market. Snyder responded, “Every single answer of every question that I have in my life right now leads to community.” Snyder came to Cortez from Orange County, Calif., about which he has this to say: “In the city there is no sense of community because everyone is in competition.” He credited farmers for being good neighbors, willing to help each other – and strangers – out of a tight spot.
Fabric art is big this year at the Farmers Market. Scott Saltsgaver of Yarn 4 Ewe has an eclectic array of knitted, crocheted, and felted items all made from wool he has spun himself. The choices will make the kid in you squeal with pleasure. He has all styles of hats, berets, gloves, and scarves draped across the table like wooly garden creatures, braid-in dreds for the adventuresome or the playful, little felted purses in fun colors with long straps meant to be strung over a bare shoulder. Don’t see exactly what you want in the color you want? Saltsgaver will take your order, have you pick out your wool, and will call you when it’s done.
Also available is raw wool wrapped in loose braids and something relatively new: needle felted art in which a wet-felted canvas is used to attach raw fiber to create a picture. It’s pure whimsy, beguiling the innocent shopper to touch, feel, and purchase.
More felted art can be found at a booth shared by Laurie Austen and Caitlin Munroe, both teachers in the local school district. Laurie felts merino wool on to silk for some of her items and makes others from 100 percent felt. She has an impressive array of scarves, bags, and pillows. Caitlin Munroe needle felts her art into delightful oddities: mushrooms, starfish, punchdrunk purses, clutches, fairies and funny creatures. It’s easy to imagine one of these bling babies peeking out of the top of a child’s Christmas stocking.
Potted arrangements of succulents, mini-terrariums, potted herbs can be found at the Black D Spicer Farm Stand. And everywhere one looks there are bundles and bouquets of flowers like bright gasps of color. One stand even had gladiolus, those long-legged beauties that amaze the eyes and pierce the heart.