NAVAJO STAR PORCELAIN ORNAMENTS
Winter was a special time for Navajo artist Lei Thomas, who grew up in Shiprock learning to draw and create traditional bead and feather work from his mother and grandmother. After the first snow, elders would tell stories about the stars and animals. His porcelain Navajo Star ornaments symbolize the lights in the night sky that Coyote flung up after growing impatient with placing them one by one. The six original designs feature the animals and other winter symbols that remind him of his childhood, like Bear, who heralds the spring season and the end of hibernation.
Where to find: Two Arrows Art
HAND-CARVED WOODEN ANGELS
At 16, Santa Fe wood carver Larry Jacquez apprenticed with his neighbor, renowned santero David Alvarez. Jacquez, who continues to use those techniques today, finds the driftwood along the Río Grande and Cochiti Lake to craft upward of 4,000 hand-carved ornaments each year. Each angel, nativity scene, and santo is unique in size and shape. Some, he decorates with turquoise and other embellishments. “People tell me stories about angels, that they are the souls of those who have passed away and give them guidance,” he says. “I like creating them, then looking at people’s faces when they enjoy them. The angels bring them comfort.”
SOUTHWEST BULB ORNAMENTS
Angel Rodriguez of The Head’s Creation hand-pours, fires, and delicately paints her ceramic bulb ornaments in earth tones and vibrant blues from her Albuquerque studio. Then she ships a little bit of New Mexico to grace holiday trees and displays all over the world. An Albuquerque native and a craftswoman, she started painting medallions and miniature ceramic pots as giveaways for Amtrak, learning traditional Southwest designs from other artists. She opened her own studio, The Head’s Creation, more than 20 years ago to stay home with her children. “I put mi corazón into each one,” she says.
As a child, Katie Johnson pored over back issues of New Mexico Magazine kept by her fourth-generation New Mexican mother. So when the landscape and portrait painter retired to Las Cruces from Seattle, it was like a homecoming. She transferred her love of intense, bright colors to cutting and decorating punched-tin ornaments. “I remember seeing articles about tin punching, which I love because of its folksiness, simplicity, and old-fashioned feel,” she says. “It speaks to me about what New Mexico is all about, especially at the holidays.” She colors each ornament with acrylic paint and permanent marker, bringing a shiny touch of New Mexico to any Christmas tree or display.
Cut your own tree. New Mexico’s national and state forests offer inexpensive tree-cutting permits starting in mid-November. Pro tip: Trees must be at least five inches in diameter, and those taller than 10 feet require an additional permit.
Bag your own sand. The New Mexico State Land Office offers farolito sand at seven locales throughout the state. Pro tip: Each permit is good for up to 20 gallons, or 2.5 cubic feet of sand, enough for about 100 farolitos.