Friday, April 29, 2011

Patience . . . or Not!

The other day a woman walked through the Kokopelli doors closely followed by two teenage boys. I could see a man through the plate glass windows, walking along the porch toward the chairs placed for impatient husbands, so I assumed the foursome was together. I was unsure why, but the song "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix popped into my head. The woman was thirty-something and had a pleasant face. She wore shoulder-length, medium-red hair; gold rimmed glasses; a white knit pullover, short sleeve shirt; Levis' 501 jeans; and simple brown sandals. The boys were good-looking young men, I guessed 15 and 17 years of age. Like their mother, they were of a fair complexion and had striking auburn hair, worn below their ears. The youths were dressed in Levis', running shoes and windbreakers adorned with team logos. I do not recall which team or what sport the jackets represented, because the boys did not stay long. They exited the building, briefly spoke with the man sitting out of sight on the porch and walked towards Twin Rocks Cafe.

Twin Rocks Trading Post Pottery and Jewelry Art

There were a couple other people in the store at the time and Priscilla and I were engaged in running conversations with them as they looked over the merchandise. I greeted the red-headed woman and let her know we were available for show and tell if she wished. She smiled broadly and said she was fascinated with Native American art and wanted to see everything before asking questions. I invited her to take her time and let us know when she was ready with queries. About 10 minutes later I heard a three-toned "Beep, Beep, Beep" from somewhere in the trading post. I looked around the store and no one was reaching for their telephone, so I guessed it was the fax machine in Steve's office. I ignored the sound and struck up a conversation with a brown-eyed woman, looking at earrings near where I stood. The red-headed lady was nearby when I heard a different ring tone . "Is that you?" I asked the woman in front of me, "No." she said, "I don't sound like that."

I laughed at the way the brown-eyed woman indicated it was not her phone. Just then the red-headed woman reached into her back pocket, pulled out her telephone and looked at the screen. Apparently she was not interested in communicating with the caller, because she turned off the phone and replaced it in her pocket. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man on the porch stand up with a phone to his ear, squint through the glass, frown and sit back down. The red-headed woman continued to browse. Shortly thereafter I saw the man pop up again and walk to the Kokopelli doors. Pushing his way into the store he walked in the direction of the red-headed woman.

The man was something to behold, he was on the far side of 30, short in stature; maybe 5' 6" at best. His medium brown hair was not long, but full. Resting on his head at an odd angle was a black baseball cap embroidered with a purple insignia I did not recognize. Covering his eyes was a pair of small round, gold-rimmed, John Lennon style sunglasses of a violet hue. The man's shoulders were narrow, and his ample belly protruded a good 5" over his belt. Draped over his unique torso was a grape-colored, Grateful Dead, Watch Tower, tie-dye t-shirt. He also had on a pair of European Capri trousers; black in color, with dark purple tiger claw slash patterns on the thighs. There was about six inches of pale calf poking out of the bottom of the pants, and his sock-less feet were encased in a dark purple pair of Converse deck shoes. "Dang!", I thought to myself, "I have been caught out in public in some strange outfits in my time, but never intentionally, and never, ever in anything quite like this."

The red-headed woman and the amethystine adventurer were now standing less than 10 feet away from each other. She was looking in on a case full of bracelets, the "Purple People Eater" was staring at her rather expectantly. You could tell he was not a happy monster. Finally, he cleared his voice and spoke, "The boys and I are running out of patience. Let's go!" The red-headed woman was unshaken; she didn't even look up. In a calm voice we could all hear, she said; "You would have had to have some to begin with to have lost it!" The little man blanched and froze, his shoulders hunched as if he had been struck. The brown-eyed woman looked at me, smiled merrily and mouthed, "Touche!" "A public flogging", I thought to myself, "That will leave an emotional scar!" The now "Purple Man" turned on his heel and exited the building, stage left. The red-headed woman rounded the case and looked up; our eyes met. "Ouch!" I said. "Once too often," came her reply as she continued her tour.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Will Work For Art

Whenever I am in a major city (Bluff, for better or worse, does not fit into that category) I often see people sitting on street corners, reclining at major intersections or standing in the median with cardboard signs inviting passersby to contribute to their support. For one reason or another, these folks are unable to sustain themselves and require assistance from the rest of us. At times, some, rather than requesting a handout, display signs stating, “Will Work for Food.”

Seventeen Beautiful Butterflies Basket

While there have been times at the trading post when I thought Barry and I might also wind up with tin cups soliciting contributions to our general welfare, so far that has been avoided. I realize I worry unnecessarily when it comes to economic issues, and that I also typically exaggerate the risks. For example, I often think of the time when, as a newly minted lawyer with a comfortable salary, I fretted about having a child. The issue was not whether I would genuinely love the new arrival. No, my primary concern was how I might afford the cases of diapers necessary to keep an infant adequately Pampered.

With panhandlers, trading posts and Pampers weighing heavily on my mind, I recently tackled The Undaunted: The Miracle of the Hole-in-the-Rock Pioneers, by Gerald Lund. This historical novel tells the story of the Mormon settlers who left their comfortable homes in Cedar City and St. George, Utah territory, to settle in the wilderness of southern Utah. While that story is exciting enough by itself, the author has added a few fictional characters for good measure.

While slogging through this massive work, I was inspired by the words of Jens Nielson, the leader of the expedition and first bishop of Bluff. As he urged his flock across the untamed and impossibly “slantendicular” landscape towards what would ultimately become their home, Jens advised them, “Even when there is no way to go through, you must go through!”

Jens’ comment reminded me of the early days of Twin Rocks Trading Post, when the challenges ahead seemed as impossible as getting wagons through the Hole-in-the-Rock, over the Colorado River, around Grand Gulch and across Comb Ridge to Bluff. These financial obstacles were not, however, unique to us; the local Navajo artists had for many years before we arrived been attempting to overcome similar difficulties. Southern Utah is a land of vast beauty and equally vast economic hardship. Navigating the canyons and valleys of this stark land, whether physically or financially, is never easy.

Despite the obstacles, neither the settlers, the artists nor Barry and I gave up and turned away. Instead, we all found a way to go through. The Mormons scratched out a community that has endured more than 130 years. The artists chose to develop entirely new styles of rug weaving and basketry that have excited collectors and museum directors for decades. Since innovation and rapid evolution have always been a way of life for the Navajo, it must have seemed almost natural for the local weavers and basket makers to develop their new motifs based upon traditional legends and the monumental landscape of their homeland.

As for Barry and me, upon seeing the stunning work these Navajo artist were creating, we knew our role was supporting the innovators while they pursued their passion for art. As a result, Barry and I adopted the motto, “Will Work for Art,” and we have been doing so ever since. Jens, a Danish convert to the LDS church with a flair for the English language, might have admired our “stickie-ta-tudy.”

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, April 15, 2011


In an effort to entice the warmth of the day and the fragrance of spring into the trading post, I had just propped open the Kokopelli doors. A moment later, acting as though they were on a discovery mission, two elderly women strode across the threshold and into the building. Both white haired women looked to be on the far side of 70. One was plastered in polyester and wore a multicolored, hand-hooked, acrylic afghan poncho on her broad shoulders. She was the one who was just about to tick me off! The other woman wore an off-white, ribbed, long sleeved, knit top and 501 Levi's. The encounter began well, the women were quite complimentary of our inventory and mentioned how effective our displays were at presenting the art. I thanked them for the kudos and credited Priscilla with arranging the cases. The women smiled pleasantly and wandered to the southwest corner of the store. That is when relations began to sour.

Navajo Natural Kingman Turquoise Quash Blossom Set by Allison Snowhawk Lee (#145)

Something I have noticed about people who begin to loose their physical senses is that they tend to exaggerate the loss. For instance, when I struggle to see well I look longer and harder at people or things in order to get a better, clearer, more complete picture. This gets me a punch in the eye from time to time, but hey, such is life! Another example is that when people begin to lose their hearing they compensate by speaking louder. This was the case with the serape-shrouded sister. As she approached the far counter, she began whispering to her companion how our products were over-priced, the stones were not natural, the quality of workmanship substandard, etc., etc., etc. Her whisper was more than a little perceptible, and my blood pressure was beginning to rise. The other woman, whose back was to me, hunched her shoulders and tried to withdraw within herself. She was excruciatingly aware her companion's tone was clearly audible.

Don't get me wrong, I am not shy about asking why and how questions myself, that is the way I learn and grow. The trick, however, is to be open and interested enough to hear and recognize the truth when you hear it. Some of us gain a little knowledge and experience and figure that is all there is to it; we risk spreading false witness. Craig, Steve and I make every effort to bring high quality Native American Indian art into the trading post. In fact, we are obsessive about it. Together we have about 100 years experience on the subject and continue to educate ourselves daily.

I am not saying we know it all, but I guessed we knew a whole lot more about turquoise, silver, wool and sumac than that old girl. Emphasizing the word "stuff," I walked over and asked, "Where did you learn so much about this stuff?" The woman must have realized she had been overheard, because I could see the realization in her eyes. She could, most likely, hear irritation in my voice. She looked at me closely, made up her mind, expanded like a Puffer fish and said, "I spent two years in Gallup, New Mexico and learned all about it." "That explains it," I said. What irritates me most, is when people who have only a rudimentary knowledge about a complicated subject openly spout off and criticize, sharing their ignorance.

The woman gave me a harsh look, her steel-blue eyes bored into mine and she thrust her jaw out in defiance. She was not about to back down. I was looking back at her, giving her the stink-eye for insulting my inventory and taking it as a personal affront. Several caustic comments and rude remarks came into my head, but fortunately I held them in check. The woman's friend could see I was upset, and was trying to become invisible. I had to give her credit, she was embarrassed, but had not deserted her friend. As we stared across the counter at each other, an image of my dear departed grandmother came to mind. Unlike this contrary cuss, Grandma Correia was a sweetheart, always joking, laughing and being altogether nice. "This woman is surely someone's Grandmother," I thought.

I sighed and looked sadly at the woman, embarrassed at being drawn into a no-win situation, and picking on Grandma Audacious. The old girl had really "cranked" me. Her friend was walking her to the door, hoping to get out without a full-fledged battle. Just before they crossed the threshold I lost my restraint one last time and said; "You're wrong ya' know." "No I'm not!" she whispered to her friend as they hustled down the porch steps.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gotta Share the Beauty

Over the years I have come to realize that I am a big fan of the
people. I can often be found watching interesting individuals,
wondering in amazement at their distinct characteristics or the
activities they engage in. Correspondingly, it has always fascinated me
how those same people touch us in the most unexpected ways; sometimes
big, sometimes small.

Elsie Holiday with Mirage BasketThe
other day Priscilla and I were working the floor at Twin Rocks Trading
Post, straightening the store and, in hopes of putting a few dollars
into the till, talking animatedly with the customers who wandered in
through the Kokopelli doors. March is characteristically a slow month,
however, so we did not have high expectations.
Historically, sales at the trading post do not begin picking up until
after April 15th. It seems people are more inclined to treat themselves
to a rug, basket or piece of turquoise jewelry
after their tax returns have been filed. Barry and I have considered
petitioning the IRS to require semiannual reporting, so people will be
twice as inclined to spend their hard earned cash. You can imagine how
much happier people will be when they have to file two income tax
returns a year.
On that beautiful spring afternoon one woman stayed on longer than the
rest. The elderly lady lingered around the Zuni fetishes, asking questions and gathering information about their origin and history. Priscilla and I explained that the handmade animal, bird
or human figures were originally carved as talisman used to ensure a
plentiful and successful hunt. We informed her that in the 1800s the
federal government worried so much about the power of these carvings
that they sent Frank Cushing, a noted anthropologist, to the Zuni
Reservation to research their mysterious powers. We also mentioned that
in 1994 a fetish had been sent into space on the shuttle Endeavor .
Apparently by then the government, or at least NASA, had overcome its
earlier reservations.
“It is a beautiful culture, isn’t it,” she asked rhetorically,
referring to Native Americans in general. Affirming her earlier
statement and nodding her head vigorously, she said, “Yes, you gotta
share the beauty.” When the woman left Priscilla asked if I had heard
what she said. By that time I was mulling over the woman’s comment in
light of what we do at Twin Rocks. “Yes,” I said, remembering all the beauty I had experienced while running the trading post over the past 21 years.

Priscilla reminded me that beauty is fundamental to Navajo culture
and that the Beautyway ceremony exemplifies this belief. Although the
term does not directly translate into English, Beautyway is said to be
an expression of balance, success, well-being and happiness all wrapped
into one ritual. During this rite, the medicine man helps his patient
reestablish a sense of order in his or her life. The reasons one my
become unbalanced are numerous. For Navajo people, however, there is
only one cure, finding and sharing the beauty.
The Beautyway brings the patient back into harmony with all things and
all people, with all objects, all animals, all feelings, all plants and
even the weather. The result is being at peace, serene in the knowledge
that all around you is healthy and well.
Without knowing it, the elderly woman had reminded us why we are here,
and why we do what we do. Our purpose has always been to share the
beauty of southern Utah, its people and their art. In beauty we trade.
With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team
Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!