November 24, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: Small Business: Art: Folk Art: The Santa Fe New Mexican: Peru RPCV Judy Espinar creates Folk Art Market in New Mexico

Peace Corps Online: State: New Mexico: February 8, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: New Mexico : November 24, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: Small Business: Art: Folk Art: The Santa Fe New Mexican: Peru RPCV Judy Espinar creates Folk Art Market in New Mexico

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Peru RPCV Judy Espinar creates Folk Art Market in New Mexico

Peru RPCV Judy Espinar creates Folk Art Market in New Mexico

The first market was a huge success. Many of the participants reported that the trip to Santa Fe was life-changing. This year, market-sponsored artists earned nearly $500,000, a 46-percent increase from 2004 sales.

Peru RPCV Judy Espinar creates Folk Art Market in New Mexico


Nov 24, 2005

The Santa Fe New Mexican

"I recognized that I had been and am interested in the preservation of culture wrapped up in these wonderful objects."

While her sisters were playing volleyball or talking the neighborhood boys into a game of touch football, Judy Espinar was sitting on her porch in Pittsburgh weaving baskets from raffia and cord.

It could be argued that her passion for folk art began then, at age 5.

But it definitely reached full expression in 2004 with the founding of the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, the latest addition to the city's crown of arts and culture events.

Last July, in its second year, the two-day event drew 18,000 visitors and 95 artists from 34 countries to Museum Hill. The success so impressed the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that UNESCO named Santa Fe as the first Creative City in its international network.

Tom Aageson, director of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, who nominated Espinar for the New Mexican award, said, "While many people volunteered thousands of hours to help Judy create this market, it was her leadership, energy, vision and commitment that made the market such a success."

"If she had not been willing devote her life to it, it never would have happened," said Charmay Allred, one of the four co- chairs of the market.

At 67, Espinar is on at least her third career. After years in the fashion industry in New York and more than a decade as owner of The Clay Angel on Lincoln Avenue, she is now devoting all of her time to the Folk Art Market.

Espinar's parents, both pharmacists, encouraged her interest in art and stocked a home art room with weaving, painting and pottery supplies.

As a girl, she learned to sew and made some of her own clothes. At Hood College in Frederick, Md., she majored in clothing and textiles, then did graduate work and taught beginning design at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Feeling like she was going to get to the end of her dream of working in the fashion industry too quickly, and eager to experience other cultures, Espinar joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Peru. She soon found a niche for herself -- teaching art to children in public and private schools

Espinar left Peru for New York City to start her career in fashion. She went to work for the fashion office at Gimbel's department store where she staged fashion and bridal shows. Later, she became the store's first director for menswear.

She next went to work for the Butterick division of the American Can Company, first becoming fashion director and head of the fashion information center and then editor and chief of Vogue patterns.

A two-year stint for a ready-to-wear line of polyester clothing in Dallas followed. But when a friend offered her a job as director of Evan Piccone's design studio, she jumped at the chance to work for a quality label and moved back to New York.

By then, she said, "Everybody wanted me to come work for them." Espinar accepted the high-profile job of expanding the line of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans by Murjani. The days were long. And when Espinar got home at night there were always 3-hour phone calls to Hong Kong waiting to be made. Although she always liked the people she worked for, Espinar finally had enough. She felt she was defining her identity through her job and, she said "I had forgotten that I liked to weave baskets."

All during her fashion career, Espinar cultivated her interest in ceramics. While in Europe for the couture and pret-a-porter shows, she took weekend buying trips to artists' studios. And she scheduled vacations in pottery villages in Mexico and other parts of the world known for ceramics. "I bought what I thought was beautiful," she said.

A lecture on the Nelson Rockefeller collection of Mexican art given by a curator at the Museum of International Folk Art validated her growing interest in maylica. The curator told her she was doing something worthwhile and she continued documenting her purchases although, she said, "I still remember where every piece came from."

The next step was a natural. Espinar and her sister, Linda Champlin, a professor of constitutional law, opened the first Clay Angel store in Ashland, Ore. Espinar and her husband, Tom Dillenberg, who had worked in real estate in New York, moved to Santa Fe and, in 1992, she opened The Clay Angel on Lincoln Avenue. The store features a top-of-the-line international maylica selection.

Espinar, a regular at the New York gift show, made contact with Clare Smith, director of a group called Aid to Artisans, a nonprofit organization that works with artists to develop products with the appeal to compete successfully in markets around the world. "I recognized that I had been and am interested in the preservation of culture wrapped up in these wonderful objects," Espinar said.

She joined the group's board and after the Berlin Wall came down was sent by the organization to help evaluate the ceramic craft of Hungary.

In Santa Fe, she cultivated friendships with people associated with the Folk Art Museum. One year, she and her sister went to Spain with Charlene Cerny, then director of the museum, on a buying trip. It led to a major maylica exhibition for which Espinar donated some prized personal pieces.

With Aid to Artisans and UNESCO, Espinar embarked on a second project to encourage artists to start using new lead-free glazes that could be fired at low temperatures. The use of lead has had devastating effects on the health of potters, she said. But it is difficult to recreate the traditional look in products fired at low temperatures and they are fragile and difficult to ship.

Espinar helped identify artists whose work would appeal to importers and Aid to Artisans provided training in how to build and clean kilns used for lead-free products.

The project is ongoing. "Even if you have the will to make the change, many artists don't have the money or the time to build new kilns. They've got to feed their families," Espinar explained.

The projects eventually grew into the Folk Art Market, a venue to show artists that their work is valued.

At first the idea was to have a sale of folk art at various retail outlets in town. But then Espinar and Aageson, the former director of Aid to Artisans, decided to put together a committee to brainstorm other ideas. Patricia LaFarge, a gallery owner; Darby McQuade of Jackalope; Joyce Ice, director of the Folk Art Museum; Charlene Cerny, the former director; Laurel Seth, head of a folk- art foundation; and several business owners began meeting. In addition to Cerny, Espinar also recruited Allred, a trustee at the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

The first market was a huge success. Many of the participants reported that the trip to Santa Fe was life-changing. This year, market-sponsored artists earned nearly $500,000, a 46-percent increase from 2004 sales.

Espinar hopes the Santa Fe market will spawn new markets all over the globe. "Think what that could do to keep folk art alive," she said.

When this story was posted in January 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican

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