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by kay byron pacheco
August 31, 2010
February 12, 2010
by Caroline Jones
September 3, 2009
December 27, 2008
West Virginia, West Virginia
June 29, 2004
Located along old Route 66 on the way to Tijeras Canyon, the Utility Shack is well off the beaten tourist track. Part gallery, part jewelry showroom, and part trading post, the shop serves as a trustworthy outlet for high-quality merchandise that is reasonably priced. With years of experience behind them, proprietors Linda and David Stout have developed a network of outstanding Native American artisans whose work is offered at prices that are far below the prices typically found in Old Town or Santa Fe.
Patrons visiting the Shack will find a stunning array of Southwestern jewelry. Pride of place goes to traditional Pueblo and Navajo pieces that feature coral, shell, and semiprecious stones—particularly turquoise—set in silver. An increasingly prominent collection of modern jewelry designs are more likely to combine traditional motifs with precious stones set in gold. The jewelry collection also includes Southwestern beadwork–for example, silver "Navajo pearls," heshi (small beads carved from shell, coral, or semiprecious stones), and pulled silver—and a small but enticing collection of "pawn" (antique traditional jewelry created for personal use rather than for sale to non-tribal members).
The Shack’s pottery collection is less extensive than its jewelry collection, but each piece is a prize. Most pots on display at any given time are crafted by potters from New Mexico’s various Pueblo tribes, including Acoma, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Cochiti. Pottery from tribes in Arizona and northern Mexico are also typically available. On request, Linda or David will provide customers with the pedigree of each pot—including the potter’s name, tribe, and reputation, as well as the techniques used to create the pot. Visit often enough and you are apt to see the Stouts inspecting the offerings of potters who arrive in hopes of adding their wares to the Shack’s inventory. The Shack’s standards are exacting, and such unsolicited offerings are more apt to be rejected than accepted.
Other Native American crafts available from the Utility Shack include fetish carvings (small stone animal figures), kachinas (ceremonial figures made of painted wood and feathers), rugs, and sculptures and paintings based on traditional themes.
The staff is always available to field questions, but the Utility Shack follows a low-pressure approach to sales, permitting the merchandise to speak for itself. Customers are free to browse at will. Any pressure I've felt to buy has been fueled by my own desires.
Prices follow the trading post pattern: Most items are half the marked price, though a few items (designated "retail") are priced as marked.
From journal Albuquerque - Cultural Crossroads of the Southwest