Artists seek new business beginning at folk art market

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    Vanh Hanh Vietnamese Lion Dancers entertain the crowd at at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

    - Bob Smith

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    Huichol artists from Mexico during the Folk Market's opening parade at The Railyard in Santa Fe.

    - Michael Benanav

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    Live entertainment by the West African Highlife Band at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market weekend kick-off event at the Railyard, Santa Fe.

    - Lisa Law

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    Tri Suwarno, shadow-puppet maker and performer from Indonesia at the 2011 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

    - Bob Smith

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    Sita Devi Karna of the Janakpur Women's Development Center (JWDC), Nepal, at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

    - Bob Smith

Rangina Hamidi, who runs in Kandahar Treasure.

Jeremy Hobson: In Santa Fe, New Mexico this weekend, artists from Afghanistan to South America -- and everywhere in between -- are gathering for the world's largest folk art market. They're selling woven baskets and handmade silk scarves. And it's a chance for many struggling artists to make some much needed money. But before they do that, they need a little business training.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler joins us this morning from Santa Fe with that part of the story. Good morning.

Jeff Tyler: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: So, in addition to the market and selling their wares, it sounds like some of these artists need to get a little crash-course in business.

Tyler: A lot of these artists don't have any formal education, so they need to start with the very basics. You know, it's sort of like one of those reality TV shows where fashion designers compete to get their products into a big department store, but in this case, the artisans have industry professionals who will work with them as mentors for the next year.

People like Marilyn Kawakami. She's the former president of Ralph Lauren Womenswear. She says it's a big jump from selling goods directly to a consumer.

Marilyn Kawakami: It's another thing for a department store that gives a certain quantity in orders that they be delivered on time and in the right place, and that requires a level of expertise. And that is in part what this mentorship program that we're do is -- to identify who's ready for the next stage.  

Hobson: And Jeff, for those artists that do make it to the next stage, what kind of economic impact does this is training have?

Tyler: Well this can absolutely change people's lives. Most of these people are very poor, so the money from sales will help them do things like pay to send their kids to school, buy medicine, get pure drinking water. And for women especially, it can be transformational.

I spoke with Rangina Hamidi, who runs a company called Kandahar Treasure in Afghanistan. She describes the social impact for one of her workers.

Rangina Hamidi: She cried to me one day saying, 'before we started working with you, we would be invited to attend ceremonies, weddings, receptions in the communities as servants. Now that we have money and now that we are able to afford, you know, decent clothing, we are invited as guests.'

Hamidi says the business training for helping her establish a level of professionalism at her company that has landed her lucrative contracts with U.S. retailers.

Hobson: What a difference a little business training makes. The International Folk Art Market runs through Sunday in Santa Fe. Thanks, Jeff.

Tyler: My pleasure.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

Rangina Hamidi, who runs in Kandahar Treasure.


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