The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Laura Robbins in her Placitas mosaic studio

Laura Robbins in her Placitas mosaic studio

Mixing glass and clay

Bill Diven

When artist Laura Robbins prepares to create a mosaic in her Placitas studio, two essential items are within reach: a hammer and bandages.

“Sometimes I smash glass to get a variety of shapes,” Robbins said. “I also do a lot of glass cutting.”

Assembling the stained glass, however, occasionally draws blood, as the shapes and shards combine with ceramic elements to create fanciful images, fountains, and scenes of flowers and wildlife. Some fit interior spaces, perhaps a step face or fireplace front, while exterior designs may span a patio wall flanking the gate with a larger-than-life bird and an elephant scaled down but only slightly.

“I found out that I love clay and glass and that I could work big,” Robbins said. “I love working big.”

A printmaker and etcher by undergraduate training and a master's-degreed art teacher by trade, she once dedicated summers to personal expression. But about eleven years ago, the toxic chemistry required to etch metal plates became a concern.

So she continued to teach in the art program she established at Albuquerque's Bosque Prep and dabbled in pastels until she led a student tour to Italy, where she saw mosaics all over Venice.

“Our culture doesn't support art like that culture did,” Robbins said. “Something resonated, and I knew that making mosaics was what I was supposed to do.

”In Italy I realized I was a crafts-person and an artist.”

Putting twenty years of teaching behind her, she made the admittedly scary leap to making mosaics full-time. From her savings she built a stand-alone studio for work and materials that had threatened to take over her home.

While she is experimenting with smaller mosaics on rigid backs, most of her works are commissioned installations, often crafted to buyers' specific requirements. Others, like the complexity of glass and clay surrounding the fireplace and rising to the ceiling at the Range Café in Bernalillo, are left to her whimsy.

Current works in progress for herself and a future show include a horse and a phoenix hanging at her Foothill Studio off Camino de San Francisco north of the Placitas village. Each began as a sheet of fiberglass mesh, four feet square, with Robbins using adhesive to attach glass and the clay pieces she fashions in the studio and fires in her kiln.

At final installation, colored grout covers the mesh and contributes its own texture to the finished work.

“Mosaics cheer up everything,” Robbins said. “Glass is a beautiful material.”

Robbins said mosaics could be community projects for young and old to create public art in an art-sensitive town like Bernalillo. She also remains an advocate for art education as critical to thinking and compassion.

“Nobody talks about education as educating the whole being anymore,” she said. “Tests and rote address certain specific learning skills, but they are not the answer to fostering inquisitive, creative, and compassionate minds.

“When you work with kids, you see humanity condensed.”

Robbins’s work can be seen publicly at the Atomic Grill in Santa Fe, the Range Café and Lizard Rodeo Lounge in Bernalillo, the Range Café on Menaul, Bosque School, and Sandia Preparatory School; in private homes; and in her studio by appointment (867-3189). Her Web site will be up by early November. Laura’s work is currently online in the Featured Artist of the Month Gallery.


American Chamber Players in concert at Simms Center

“Seductively luxurious”

“Impressive precision”

”Performance equal to any in the world”

“The latest German automobile”

These are a few of the phrases reviewers have used to describe the music of the American Chamber Players, who will appear on Sunday, November 14, in a concert presented by Chamber Music Albuquerque.

On the program are Mozart's Quartet in D, K. 285; the Prelude, Recitative, and Variations, op. 3, by Maurice Duruflé; Frank Bridge's Phantasie in F-sharp minor; the Sonata da Camera by Gabriel Pierné; and the Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, op. 45, by Gabriel Fauré.

Along with Miles Hoffman, the American Chamber Players consists of Sara Stern, flute; Joanna Maurer, violin; Alberto Parrini, cello; and Jean-Louis Haguenauer, piano.

The group is in demand at concerts from Florida to British Columbia, and New Mexicans are fortunate to have the opportunity to hear and see this dynamic ensemble.

Among today's most exciting and innovative chamber ensembles, the ACP was formed in 1985 by violist Miles Hoffman (known for his commentary on National Public Radio's Performance Today and Morning Edition). Their repertoire ranges from familiar masterpieces to neglected gems to newly commissioned works.

The concert takes place at the Simms Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming Boulevard NE. Tickets can be purchased in person at Chamber Music Albuquerque, 1209 Mountain Road Pl., Suite D, or by phone at 505-268-1990. Office hours are Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets are also available online at or at the door. Prices are $17 to $35, with students admitted at half price.

The Chamber Music Albuquerque season will continue in January with the international favorite Quartetto Gelato. More information is available at or by calling Chamber Music Albuquerque, (505) 268-1990.


Haitian émigré concert debut in English, French, Creole

Jacob Michel Decimus was born in Jacmel, Haiti. He spent many years in the capital city, Port-au-Prince. He went to high school and at the age of nineteen, he became a tennis instructor and taught tennis in private clubs, including Club Med, before moving to the United States in January 1999.

Since then, Jacob has been living in Placitas with his wife. He has attended the University of New Mexico and in December will be receiving his bachelor's degree in international management. He speaks four languages: French, Creole, English, and Spanish.

Jacob has recently reached a long-sought-after goal. He has recorded his original lyrics and music under the title Love Is A Mystery. The CD contains eleven songs; five of the songs are in English, five are in French, and one is in Creole.

Jacob has an interestingly beautiful musical style. This CD is composed entirely of soft and romantic pop ballads. His musical style combines the influences of French chansonette and Caribbean music with pop beat, which gives his album an exotic and melodic flavor.

Jacob grew up in a violent society where there were not a lot of resources and respect for human life was minimal. Above all, he did not let the abuse of women and children transform his thoughts into hate and force him to lose the meaning of love, peace, and compassion. On the contrary, he found his strength and his love out of the desperate need to help a society change its course of direction.

Jacob sings for those who feel lonely, are in search of love, acceptance, and compassion. He sings for those who are waiting for a moment of joy to come into their lives. He sings for those who look for refuge, companionship, and trust. Finally, he sings for those who are being robbed of their hope and their will to live. He would like to tell them that there will come a day in which their regret, loneliness, pain, and desperation will transform into an ocean of joyful loveliness.

Jacob will be performing a special CD-release concert “Love Is A Mystery,” on November 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway SE. The invited artist is Skye Pratt from Swaziland, Africa. Tickets are available at 848-1320, 867-2775, or 350-9202. Adults, $10 advance; door, $12; children (6–12), $5 advance and $6 door.


Book review

Gardens of New Spain

by William W. Dunmire

Margo DeMello

Reading Gardens of New Spain (University of Texas Press, 2004), a new book by Placitas resident and retired National Park Service naturalist William Dunmire, is like reading a history of New Mexico (and the rest of the Southwest) told through food. This fascinating and detailed book uncovers one of the most amazing cultural and culinary fusions in the world: the blending of Old World and New World plants, animals, traditions, and indeed, cultures, that resulted in the Southwest of today.

While for many the Spanish colonization of the Americas, starting in the fifteenth century, is a story of violent conquest, for the author it is also a story of cultural syncretism—how the foods of Spain, themselves brought from the Near East as well as East Asia, traveled with the sailors, conquistadors, colonists, and missionaries from the Old World to the islands of the Caribbean, then Mexico, and ultimately into what is now the American Southwest. With these foods came new agricultural techniques, new technologies, and new cuisines.

But as the author explains in chapters covering pre- and post-Columbian Spain, Mexico, and the Southwest, those Old World plants and animals, and the techniques used to propagate them, did not simply displace native foods. Instead, plants like wheat and other grains, fruits of all kinds, an array of stem, leafy, and root vegetables, and a variety of spices and herbs, took their place alongside foods already farmed by the native inhabitants of Mexico (and later the Southwest), such as squash, corn, chile, and beans. This resulted in the formation of what came to be Mexican and New Mexican cuisine.

Likewise, with the Spanish introduction of livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep, and chickens, to a population with very little meat in their diets, not only did the diet of the native populations change but these animals were instrumental in the creation of new cultural traditions, such as the use of wool for Navajo weaving and the reliance on horses among many Native American groups such as the Apache. The spread of cattle had even greater repercussions, including the introduction of the plow in agriculture and wheeled carts for transport, and the creation of the vaquero or cowboy culture of Texas.

Gardens of New Spain is a labor of love. After cowriting two books on the wild plants of the Southwest, Dunmire used his considerable expertise and enthusiasm to write what may be the definitive book on the cultural history of Southwest cuisine, a project eight years in the making. Drawn from archaeology, anthropology, history, and biology, and illustrated with delicate watercolors of native and introduced plants, it is a feast for the mind.

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating history, you can catch one of the author's upcoming illustrated lectures. In Santa Fe. You can see him at 6:00 p.m. on November 5 at Saint Francis Auditorium (sponsored by the Palace of the Governors), and he will be in Albuquerque at 7:00 p.m. on November 11 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.


Piano quartets by Willy Sucre and Friends

Gary Libman
Board of Directors
Placitas Artists Series

The upcoming concert of the Placitas Artists Series 2004-2005 season, on Sunday, November 21, at 3:00 p.m., promises to be another excellent one.

Willy Sucre, violist of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, will be joined by his friends violinist Joanna Morska-Osinska, cellist Joanna de Keyser, and pianist Marilyn Neeley, who will play Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Minor (K. 478), Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata in D Minor, op. 40, and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, op. 25.

Willy Sucre has served as conductor and music director of the Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra and assistant conductor of the Canada Symphony Orchestra and the NMSO.

Morska-Osinska is an accomplished violinist and soprano. She has an MA in violin performance and has won a scholarship to study at the Paris Conservatory. De Keyser is a cellist and professor emerita at UNM. Currently, she's a member of the Seraphim Trio. Neeley has been a prizewinner in the Van Cliburn International Competition. She is a professor of music and director of graduate programs in chamber music at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

The concert will be held at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, six miles east of I-25 on NM 165 (Exit 242). There will be an artists' reception at the church before the concert. This month's featured artists are Virginia Alexandra, Lisa Chernoff, Terry Lawson Dunn, and Carol Mullen. Examples of their work can be seen on the Placitas Artists Series Web site,

Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the performance, or can be purchased ahead of time at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in the Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas (867-3333). Tickets can also be purchased online. The prices for this concert are $15 for general admission and $12 for seniors and students. For additional information and ticket brochures, call 867-8080 or visit the Web site.

This concert and the art exhibit are made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. There is handicapped access and free child care for children under six.


Sheepherders, by Peter Voshefski

Sheepherders, by Peter Voshefski

Explora comes to Arte Loca Gallery

Staff from the Explora Science Center and Children's Museum in Albuquerque will be exhibiting their artistic talents at Arte Loca Gallery in a show titled "After Hours." The show will open with a public reception on Saturday, November, 6, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Sixteen artists, working in various media, will be represented. Albuquerque photographer and printmaker Elena Baca, who works full-time at Explora, curated the show and explains that the title “After Hours” refers to the personal art they create while away from the job.

“The idea for the show was pretty simple,” she said. “I work with an amazing bunch of people and all the departments work together. We all work really hard during the day, and then, after hours, still find the time to do art.” She said, “I just wanted to show the variety of talent from the staff. The show includes artists who work in different positions at Explora, from exhibits to education (that's my department) to operations, science, technology, floor staff, and others.”

The show will feature works by Bret Aaker, Elena Baca, Sasha Custer, Patricia Decker, Duane Dill, Robert Fry, Matt Jones/OJ Dingo, Kevin Lancaster, George Moran, Melina Moyer, Randy Pedro, Sherlock Terry, David Tesseo, Peter Voshefski, Tim Wedgewood, and Ellen Welker.

Alvaro Enciso, co-owner of Arte Loca Gallery, says that the show brings some of the best contemporary work in New Mexico. A good number of the artists are MFA graduates, with impressive resumes, including shows at the Albuquerque Museum of Art.

“After Hours” runs November 6 to December 9. Gallery hours are Fridays and Saturdays from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment. The gallery is at 282 Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo, 771-8097.


Pat and Peter McKay

Pat and Peter McKay traveled from Silverton, CO, to bring their playful, colorful feather art to the Placitas Holiday Sale.

Sharon Krachunis and Julie Walsh

In 2003, Sharon Krachunis and Julie Walsh volunteered their time to take care of the Placitas Holiday Sale Art Raffle, which raised $1,254.00 for the Placitas Elementary School's arts and literature programs

Basketmaker Susan Gutt

Basketmaker Susan Gutt creates traditional and contemporary basketry that delights visitors.

Mario Hinojo's intricately painted gourds

Folks lined up early last year to purchase Mario Hinojo's intricately painted gourds.


Placitas Holiday Sale showcases fine art, fine food, community spirit

Jon Couch

It comes as no surprise that Placitas is a growing community of artists. In six years, the annual Spring Placitas Studio Tour has grown from twenty-five to forty-four artists, and there are far more that don’t participate in the tour.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving the population of artists in Placitas will increase by fifty or so. They’ll come from as far away as Denver (jeweler Angela Lujan de Escala) and Silverton, Colorado (feather artists Peter and Pat McKay). They’ll come from as nearby as Placitas (nineteen artists and artisans). Some of the finest artists from all over New Mexico will come together for one of the best arts-and-crafts shows of the holiday season.

From the north come painters Anthony Chee Emerson of Kirtland and Kevin McDermott of El Prado. Jeweler Ginny Neumann of Silver City and folk artist Sue Bason of Hillsboro, in the southern part of the state, will return to the show. From as far west as Grants, home to etchings artist Amy Adshead and wooden-marquetry artists Shirley and Stanley Giser, to as far east as Tijeras, where weaver Renee Rector and colored pencil artist Nancy Wood Taber live, seventy artists in all will converge for the twenty-third annual event.

 Judging quality, originality, and variety, a jury selected the exhibitors from the many artists and artisans who applied. There are sixteen new artists this year, six of them new residents of Placitas. Many artists who are returning are bringing new work, inspirations, and techniques. The arts and crafts this year are the finest ever seen at the holiday sale. Everything is handmade, and many of the artists have created special gifts for this holiday season.

Since 1982, Placitas villagers and visitors have enjoyed the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere of the holiday sale. Its size is less intimidating than most shows of the season, giving visitors a chance to enjoy the splendor of the wares and serious shoppers the opportunity to do that all-important first walk-through before buying.

The Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale will again be held at the Placitas Elementary School, the Big Tent east of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, and Anasazi Fields Winery, all located near one another in the village.

Anasazi Fields will be offering tours of their winery as well as free wine tasting. New Mexico wines that are available by the case, bottle, or glass, are the 2001 Raspberry, 2000 Peach, 1997 Apricot, and the nonvintage Plum. New this year is Rojo Seco, a dry red table wine. Anasazi Fields will also be featuring their 2001 American Cranberry Wine, continuing what has become a local tradition at holiday dinners. Vintner and artist Jim Fish invites you to enjoy a spicy hot drink of mulled cranberry wine by the kiva fireplace.

Las Placitas Presbyterian Church will be selling their fabulous frozen chile again in the Big Tent. Since they ran out last year, they began freezing this year almost as soon as the roasters started up. The Placitas Elementary School will have a bake sale with tempting goodies, and Piñon Café will be serving hot food and sandwiches at the school, as well as their delicious green chile stew—just the thing for a November day. Nancy Coonridge of Pie Town will be offering her gourmet marinated organic goat cheeses at the winery, joined by Steve and Wanda Thompson, selling their roasted coffees and chocolates.

The Placitas Holiday Sale is once again sponsoring a raffle of artwork to benefit the arts and literature programs at the Placitas Elementary School. The public can purchase tickets at $1 each for a chance to win a piece of art, and all of the proceeds from the raffle will go to the school, where the donated art will be on display. 

Warm hospitality and high-quality arts and crafts will be found in this juried art show, as well as something for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Mark your calendars for this fun and festive holiday art event.

The sale is from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, November 20 and 21, and is located 6 miles east of I-25 on Highway 165 (take Exit 242). Colorful signs and banners will mark the way. The Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale is sponsored by the Placitas Mountain Craft & Soiree Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the community, the arts, and artists. More information about the artists and their work and locations, maps, and more can be found at


Many thanks

Nancy Couch

I would like to thank all the many people in our community who help to make the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale happen.

Special thanks go to the committee that has donated their valuable time to organize this fun event and make it a quality art show: Andi Callahan, Chuck Callahan, Bunny Bowen, Mary Hofmann, and Jon Couch.

Other people that I wish to thank are Jim Fish of Anasazi Fields Winery; Christine Werenko, principal of the Placitas Elementary School; and the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, which has generously allowed us to use their facilities.

There are many other people who have also helped us get ready for the show. They are John Roth, who helps us furnish the tent with electricity, as well as Sharon Krachunis and Julie Walsh, who take care of the art raffle, and Alex Perez, who has really helped us at the school. Special thanks also go to Kate Guildai for being our tent manager.

I also want to thank the Signpost and Barb and Ty Belknap for all their help and support in publicizing the Placitas Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Sale.

It's impossible to mention everyone, so I want to say Many thanks! to all who have volunteered their valuable time to make this such a great show.


Placitas Holiday Sale roster and locations


Amy Adshead, original etchings, Grants, 783-4618

Sue Bason, religious folk-art crosses and plaques, Hillsboro, 895-5328

Jolene and Gloria Bird, jewelry, silver inlayed turquoise shell, Santo Domingo, 465-0340

Sallyjane Bolle, rock art jewelry and pearls, Santa Fe, 471-2582

Bunny Bowen, matted and framed batik landscapes, silk scarves, Placitas, 867-2731

Annette and Shawn Caffrey, home and office accessories, Pecos, 757-6015

Andi Callahan, fine jewelry, Placitas, 771-1111

Charles Callahan, wild horse photography, Placitas, 771-1111

Debora Duran-Geiger, hand-painted art tile, Santa Fe, 984-9942

Allan and Judith Edgar/Young, jewelry—inlayed and mixed metals, Corrales, 792-8510

Debby Ferguson-Brinkerhoff, water media, Placitas, 771-0130

Claudia Fluegge, hand-painted silk scarves, paintings, Albuquerque, 830-9421

Dennis Foulkrod, leather, Placitas, 771-9477

Dennis Michael Garcia, jewelry, Albuquerque, 242-7778

Renee Gentz, silk wearables and fiber constructions, Albuquerque, 242-5703

Sylvia D. Gormley, oil and watercolor paintings, beaded jewelry, Corrales, 899-7543

Susan Gutt, traditional and contemporary baskets, Placitas, 771-8354

Mario Hinojo, carved gourds, Albuquerque, 830-0207

Mary and Karl Hofmann, functional pottery, Placitas, 867-5740

Barbara Holloway, handwoven art to wear, Galisteo, 466-2118

David Reed Johnson, wooden cutting boards, Placitas, 867-3244

Sandy and Michael Kadisak, art pottery, little people, animals, Cochiti Lake, 465-0217

Maria Kenarova, ceramic wall plaques with Southwest motifs, Santa Fe, 471-1463

Tom Kennedy, photography, Placitas, 867-0440

Angela Lujan de Escala, glass jewelry, Denver, 303-755-4314

Pat Marsello, brushwork on clay and paper, Albuquerque, 345-0237

LaMoyne McCaulley, decorative and functional pine-needle baskets, Corrales, 898-0696

Michael McCullough, acrylic and watercolor, Placitas, 867-4535

Kevin McDermott, acrylic on watercolor paper, El Prado, 751-9514

Steve McKibbin, gourds , Placitas, 867-8765

Randy Miller, jewelry and inlay knives, Bernalillo, 867-5017

Jim Sacoman, tinwork, Albuquerque, 294-2668



Rory Alvarez, wood carvings, Rio Rancho, 891-5313

Jitsudo Ancheta, fine-art printmaking, Albuquerque, 341-4757

Bill Bennett, pencil and oils and watercolor paintings, Placitas, 867-9943

Elaine and Michael Bolz/Murphy, sculptural and decorative clay, Corrales, 898-8822

Lyle H. Brown, pastels, Albuquerque, 797-9642

K. and D. Burgess/Coduti, tinwork, Albuquerque, 873-3325

Nancy Burleson and Ariel Burleson-Brazfield, note cards, Placitas, 867-5979

Henry Chernoff, hand-carved stone, Albuquerque, 821-4072

Anthony Chee Emerson, paintings, Kirtland, 598-9641

Joan Fenicle, oil paintings, Placitas, 771-4006

Shirley and Stanley Giser, marquetry and inlaid-wood jewelry boxes, Grants, 783-4320

Lazaro Gutierrez, mixed-metal jewelry, San Ysidro, 834-0102

Molly Hart, mixed-media jewelry, Santa Fe, 455-1202

Lynn Hartenberger, pastel paintings, prints and cards, Placitas, 867-4657

Joan Hellquist, painted drums, Placitas, 867-2939

Elzbieta Kaleta, paper cutouts and collage, Albuquerque, 266-9225

Peach Malmaud, Valley Garlic Oil, t-shirts, bags, Placitas

Peter and Pat McKay, feather art, Silverton, 970-387-0189

Pam Slipyan, custom leather and eclectic jewelry, Santa Fe, 577-8467

Diana Stetson, fine-art printmaking, Albuquerque, 341-4757

Patricia Wyatt, paintings and mixed media, Santa Fe, 982-3751



Terry and Margaret Adams, wall art, lamps, home decor, candleholders, Cuba, 289-3120

Norman and Danna Aufrichtig, ceramic pieces for floral decorating, El Prado, 758-1532

Barbara Barkley, fine-art paper, Quemado, 773-4187

Nancy Coonridge, organic goat cheese, Pie Town, 888-410-8433

Helen and Joseph Coriz, turquoise jewelry, specialty earrings, Santo Domingo, 465-2564

Nancy and Jon Couch, glass water prisms, jewelry boxes, mandalas, Placitas, 867-2450

Bill Dunmire, books, Placitas, 867-3474

Vangie Dunmire, watercolors, Placitas, 867-3474

Jim  Fish, wooden sculptures and walking sticks, Placitas,  867-3062

Colleen Franco, painted clay crosses, Albuquerque, 550-7220

Joshua Franco, acrylic on canvas, Albuquerque, 550-7220

Cay Garcia, paper images, Albuquerque, 857-9803

Ginny Neumann, jewelry, Silver City, 534-4702

Butch Philips, black-and-white photographs, Belen, 269-8732 (cell)

Renee Rector, handwoven clothing, Tijeras, 286-1217

Kelvin Schenk, handwoven chains, Albuquerque, 857-9803

Nancy Wood Taber, colored pencil paintings, Tijeras, 281-1166

Steve and Wanda Thompson, coffee and chocolates, Bosque Farms, 869-0040

Fred and Kristen Wilson, raku mask/pottery, jewelry, Albuquerque, 345-7671




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