“I wear it. I test it. It might be an amazing design, but if it doesn’t lie right, feel right—if it’s not durable – people won’t wear it,” says artist Maria Samora
Maria Samora’s designs are meticulously hand forged and worked, using techniques and tools that date back to the 1800s.
A traditional approach to contemporary art
—Julia Gilroy, Signpost
Seeing people wear her jewelry is the “ultimate rush” for Taos artist, Maria Zamora — an up and coming jeweler who has had lots of rushes this past year after being named poster artist for the Santa Fe Indian Market in 2009. Shortly after her silver and gold Seashell cuff bracelets adorned posters around New Mexico, Samora was invited to show at New York City’s illustrious Fall Fashion Week in Bryant Park. As part of the Unreserved American Indian Fashion and Art Alliance, Samora along with six other well-known Native American artists shared their work with Vogue, W-Magazine, and the New York Times to name just a few.
Despite the grandeur of Fashion Week, Samora will admit that being named the poster artist for the Santa Fe Indian Market has been her biggest honor. “It was slightly overwhelming and an incredible honor; it served to reconfirm who I am and my work as an artist,” says Samora. Not only is Samora the youngest artist to have been chosen for the poster, she was also only the third women to have been selected in the 88 year history of Indian Market.
Samora and her art represent the beauty that often defines New Mexico, the combination of cultures, simple elegance, and the ability to move seamlessly between tradition and innovation. The daughter of a Taos Pueblo elder, the late Doroteo “Frank” Samora, and a mid-western mother, Chien Motto, who moved to New Mexico in the 1960s, Samora’s diverse background has contributed to her artistic insight.
While Samora’s jewelry is contemporary, she has a deep respect for traditional jewelry, design and craftsmanship. Many of her pieces are meticulously hand forged and worked, using techniques and tools that date back to the 1800s.
In her floral designs (pictured), Samora delicately hand stamps 18 karat gold to resemble the textures of raw silk, forging each individual petal to create a unique shape and feel, finishing the look with a fiery diamond center. Samora admits that “the inclusion of gold and diamonds does give [her] work a more cutting edge feel.” Her intentions, however, are not to be contemporary, but simply to create something that reflects who she is as an artist, a Native American, a wife and mother, and ultimately a New Mexican.
Samora’s inspirations come from an endless number of resources. Fascinated by ancient jewelry, Byzantine and Renaissance art, and fashion magazines, Samora also observes the work of her peers, and turns to the New Mexican countryside for ideas. Samora confesses, however, that much of her work manifests itself once she is at her workbench. She doesn’t sketch her ideas or draw them out, rather she plays with techniques, notices natural patterns, observes how certain metals or stones come together and allows her hands to create and perfect her signature style.
Samora began in 1998 when a friend convinced her to take a few jewelry-making classes at the local community college. As her interest peaked she started seeking out more technically oriented classes until she discovered her mentor, G. Phil Poirier, a master goldsmith from San Cristobal, NM. Samora attributes a large part of her success and skill to Poirier’s continual generosity and guidance.
As Samora worked with Poirier and her style developed she began wearing her jewelry regularly and testing its feel, comfort and wear ability. She takes pride wearing her pieces and knowing that she is a women designing jewelry for women, a rarity in a male dominated industry. “I wear it. I test it. It might be an amazing design, but if it doesn’t lie right, feel right—if it’s not durable – people won’t wear it,” says the artist.
It was Samora’s dedication to perfecting and wearing her jewelry that lead to her first sales and gallery showing. People immediately noticed the jewelry she wore and began asking where they could buy it or even if they could buy off her person. Finally, gallery owner Leroy Garcia, of Blue Rain Gallery, took notice and invited her to show at his gallery in Taos.
With the confidence gained by being in a gallery, Samora debuted her work at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 2005. At that first market she experienced a range of emotions, beginning with a touching traditional blessing by her father, followed by a hesitance about fitting in among a community of talented artists, and ending with a crowd of people excited about her work and calling it “refreshing”.
Five years have passed since Samora’s first Indian Market appearance. Now with photographer husband, Kevin Rebholtz, by her side, they have created quite the team, working together in the studio, traveling to trade shows, raising four-year-old Quentin and preparing for their second child. When asked what she hopes to do in the future, Samora laughs and says she has “a million ideas,” from building her own studio to creating a workspace where artists can come, teach and share.
In the immediate future, however, Samora is busy preparing for her fifth annual Santa Fe Indian Market and finalizing a piece which will be exhibited at the New York Museum of Art and Design this October.
The Santa Fe Indian Market will be held on August 21st and 22nd in downtown Santa Fe. Samora will be participating in an opening on August 19th at the Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe from 5pm – 8pm. She will also participate in the market at booth 311 FR-N on both the 21st and 22nd.