Spanish Market

Julia R. Gomez: 2016 Spanish Market poster artist


- By Arnold Vigil

This year’s Spanish Market poster artist, Julia R. Gomez, reveals that the inspiratio­n for her delightful colcha embroidere­d piece, The Tree of Life, came from the last quality moments she and her siblings spent with their late mother.

“The Tree of Life was inspired by our mother, Lugardita,” Gomez says. “We spent a lot of time bird-watching with her the last year of her life. She passed away last September and was almost 96 years old. My brother and his wife have birdhouses on their property and Mama loved to be there. ‘Me gusta los gorditos’ (I like the little fat ones), she used to say.”

It was Lugardita who taught a young Julia to sew, and her interest never waned except, perhaps, during the late 1950s when she was a cheerleade­r and had lots of social activities at Santa Fe High School. Gomez later graduated from New Mexico State University and then spent a brief stint at the New Mexico Department of Transporta­tion before dedicating the next 36 years to teaching home economics at Santa Fe Mid-High School, Harvey Junior High and De Vargas Junior High.

Gomez says she first became interested in the Spanish Colonial Revival colcha style embroidery when she took courses taught in the late 1970s by Monica Sosaya Halford at the New Mexico Museum of Art and in the late 1990s at the Santa Fe Community College. Later, her friend in charge of the weaving program at El Rancho de las Golondrina­s — in La Cienega just south of Santa Fe — and award-winning colcha embroidere­r Beatrice Sandoval inspired her to create colcha pieces and enter them in Spanish Market.

Gomez says she was turned down the first year she entered in 2001, but she didn’t give up and juried into Spanish Market the next year, when she won the blue ribbon for colcha. She also won the Best of Show honor in 2010 with a bedspread-size colcha piece now owned by the Albuquerqu­e Museum.

The Tree of Life she sold. “It’s somewhere in California,” she says, adding that she doesn’t really have an inventory of her creations because of the time and labor it takes to produce just one piece. It took her months, for instance, to create The Tree of Life, which is made entirely of handmade materials, including hand-spun and - carded churro wool, woven sabanilla cloth and dyes derived from cochineal insects and indigo plants. Her painstakin­gly stitched birds are based on illustrati­ons in the book Birds of NewMexico Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela.

Although she has produced all-natural materials for colcha on her own, Gomez says that her friends often trade such materials they’ve produced to expedite the process. “There’s very few of us who colcha embroider,” she says.

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