Friday, July 30, 2010

Live from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

Sitting in my living room in Santa Monica, I was browsing through the Oprah magazine one afternoon, when my eyes fell on an article on the upcoming International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM. Since then life has not been the same. I checked out their website and right then and there decided this was something I want to be a part of. In a few weeks it was all finalized, I was going to be one of the 1,569 volunteers at the Market.

My two hour direct flight from LA to Santa, Fe took me to an airport the size of a restaurant. As I stepped into the city I knew no better of its rich culture and exquisite art background. In a matter of few hours I was blown away by its beauty, art and rich heritage. The people are warm and friendly and willing to go out of the way to help.

6:30 am July 9th, I checked into the volunteer booth and had butterflies in my stomach. I spent the next few hours setting up “booth 72”. I was going to be an Artist Assistant for an Indian weaver “Shyamji” from the village of Bhuj in Gujarat. A fine artist, shyamji has been in the business of making hand-woven stoles, scarves and shawls for centuries now. This is his traditional family business being handed down from one generation to another. He and 16 of his family members work on dying, weaving and completing unique, colorful and beautiful pieces of fabric.

This was Shyamji’s first time at this fair which was hosting 170 artists from 51 countries.
The focus of this market is on the numerous and remarkable artists' cooperatives. Half of the participating artisans are new to the market, and their work was selected for its authenticity, quality, and marketability. The market keeps 10% of the artist sales and the artists keep the remaining 90%. This year the artists were hoping to have a sale of $15,000 on average over the three days.

The Market open first to a handful of collectors who donate $5000 and above to the organization. These are the ones who are quick to pick up the best and the dearest pieces at display. Then roll in another group of early buyers who pay $125 and are the ones who like to take a first cut at what’s on display. Come Saturday and Sunday, the market is flooded with thousand’s of buyers’ hungry for the art at display. Last year we had a good 23,000 shoppers and this year saw even more.

As an artist assistant I helped Shyamji not only interpret but also showcase, sell and promote his wonderful talent. We had buyers from all country’s, ethnicity and religion. People bought scarves and shawls not only to adorn themselves but also to use it as table runners, table cloths and bed-spreads. Some ladies even suggested using those as Sarongs. Our pieces were all hand-woven and varied between cotton, silk and wool. For the Artist’s Choice Shyamji chose a beautiful hand-woven shawl in pastel colors which took him 2 months to make. Prices ranged from $35 - $300 a piece.

By the weekend the market was buzzing with people pouring in from everywhere. There were food stalls to feed the hungry shoppers. Volunteers worked around the clock. Performances from various countries including Oman, kept the people entertained. Whether it was the kutch work from India or the Cuban paintings, people grabbed exquisite pieces of art and hunted for deals.

The 36 hours spent in Santa Fe has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I came home richer not only in the wonderful paining and other gifts that I brought but also in friends I made at the event. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of the people living in NM definitely make sure I visit it again. So all you folks out there if you are looking for something to add color in your life and enrich your artistic skills, the International Folk Art Market is the place to be.

I would like to share some pictures I took at the market. Here is the link to the same:

Monday, July 26, 2010


Some of my favorite restaurants in LA

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429
Food: Great truffle pizza.

Geoffrey's in Malibu
17400 Pacific Coast Highway
Perfect setting and food!

Pizzeria Mozza
641 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101
Food: Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton are owners of these fabulous restaurants.
Amazing pizzas would be an understatement

R&D Kitchen
1323 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 395-3314
They have the best vegetarian burger

The Tasting Kitchen
1633 Abbot Kinney blvd
Best Halibut i have ever had

The Lobster
1602 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, California 90401
Scenic View, great for brunch

Valentino Santa Monica
3115 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tel. 310.829.4313
Best Italian food and deserts hands-down. They have 2,795 selections of wine with
81,670 bottles

Pink Taco
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9006
Tel. 310. 789.1000

The Tasting Kitchen

This weekend my husband and i decided to spend our saturday night dinner at Gjelina. We discovered this restaurant a few months ago and loved their food. The only annoying part is the long wait time (generally 45 mins to an hr) if you don't have reservations. So as luck would have it, we were asked to wait for an hour + for a table.

While walking around in Abbot kinney and waiting for a table at Gjelina, we decided why not try some other place. And we walked into a cute, fairly chic restaurant The Tasting Kitchen. OMG!! as luck would have it, someone did not show up for their reservation and we happened to get their table. Yaaay!! No wait and we decided to bunk Gjelina!!

Our table was at the upper level of the restaurant. The decor was very minimal but very smart. The room was buzzing with loud chatters. The wall behind us was adorned with torn pages of random books (What a smart and inexpensive way to cover the wall!!). A huge black board showed us the map of Italy, had various pictures of types of glasses and today's special. Right across from it, a black and white Italian movie reeled in the back ground.

Since this was our first visit we promptly asked our server for recommendations. Let me just warn you, this is one of those places where you can never go wrong. Everything we tried was fabulous. We started with wine, i had a glass of Riesling. We quickly ordered our appetizers. The butter lettuce (with blue cheese and tarragon) is the best. A burst of fresh flavors in your mouth. Toast (figs and fromage cheese) just melts in your mouth. The cheese was super fresh and light. Skip the castelvetrano olives (they are good, but just olives, so unless you want to eat a handful of olives i would not order it) . The french fries were nothing unique!!

We then moved on to the main dishes. I ordered a halibut (with beans and vermouth) and Sid ordered a simple pasta. (Warning!!! - There is not a whole lot of choice for vegetarians. Most of their dishes have pork!!) The halibut was small in portion but one of the best i have ever had. The soft silky fish just melted in my mouth. Full of flavor, the beans were an unusual but good accomplice. Sid's pasta was simple but another feather in their cap. It was homemade and bursting with flavors.

For desert we ordered the sticky toffee desert (apparently it was their best selling desert) and i could see why. It was a small warm toffee pudding topped with a yummy cold ice cream. Warm and comforting...made me wanna eat some more and more.

We had a wonderful but "dear" dinner. We did eat a lot (i mean between the two of us 4 appetizers, 2 entrees, a desert and 3 glasses of wine). I would definitely look forward to another evening there. It's a young vibrant place full of energy. The staff is warm and friendly and the food scrumptious. Do visit it soon and share your experience with me.