For 40 years, Jackie Baca (1926-2017) owned, operated and helped raise grandchildren in Jackie's Trading Post in El Prado. Her collecting, buying and selling of vintage Native American jewelry, …
For 40 years, Jackie Baca (1926-2017) owned, operated and helped raise grandchildren in Jackie's Trading Post in El Prado. Her collecting, buying and selling of vintage Native American jewelry, pottery, textiles and paintings was an obsession, says Baca's son Bill Slay, who confesses to the same obsession.
"This is an illness," the soft-spoken Slay says with a wry smile about the business. "My mother had the same kind of illness. You buy everything that comes through the door. And I just love it. I grew up with it, I was surrounded by it. It's part of me."
Slay said he feels pretty lucky to be doing what he loves, after having spent 25 years in a corporate airlines environment. Born and raised in Albuquerque, in 2006 Slay helped sell the original building that is now Treasures, located on the former turn-off to Taos Pueblo Casino, before the traffic light intersection was installed.
"I came here to sell it all and here I am, selling it a piece at a time," he said, laughing at his pecadillo of moving here 12 years ago and succumbing to the trading post's lure. "I could never sell it. The idea in any business is to make a profit. But when that profit is just the fact that you get to love what you do, you can't get much better than that."
And the stuff Slay loves are the vintage Southwestern cuffs, squash blossoms, concho belts, turquoise and semi-precious beaded necklaces, buckles and rings handcrafted of sterling or coin silver predominantly by Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Santo Domingo peoples, and more recently by Taos Pueblo silversmiths as well. He carries both "old pawn" and Fred Harvey-era trading post silver work, plus rugs, pottery and other popular collectibles. Harvey was a late-19th century entrepreneur who developed the Harvey House restaurants, trading posts, and string of hotels along western railway systems, largely initiating the present-day tourism industry.
Nancy Colvert, Millicent Rogers Museum Store manager, told The Taos News that Native peoples would pawn jewelry, rugs and saddles when they needed goods but had nothing to trade at the trading post or no credit built up in their trading accounts, so their jewelry was often pawned to buy things and then reclaimed. (Discover Taos, Winter+Spring 2018-2019).
"Old pawn" was typically not made to be sold. It was created to be worn by the artist or for the artists' loved ones. Trading post work was made for tourist trade.
"Originally, Jackie's started out as a fruit and vegetable stand in the '70s, which she rented from a bank loan officer who helped everybody out," Slay said. "People would bring in crops from Española Valley, and she would trade with the Pueblo. She lived in what we called 'the gingerbread house' and she had the shop down below, which sold in 2006."
In 2008, Slay moved the trading post to the dress shop next to Peoples Bank on Taos Plaza. Two years ago he then moved into the old Six Directions spot where he is now.
Jackie's mom, Slay's grandmother, he said was May Tussio, who lived in Taos and had a restaurant. "Jackie would come up in summer times to work in the restaurant and then go back to Texas with her father during winters," Slay said. "When I was a kid, grandma would bring us kids up here to go fishing. She was a very proud character."
Among artists he represents are Taos potter Angie Yazzie, well-known for her egg-shell thin pots; Antonio Lujan and Johnny Garcia; a few carvings from the famous Patrociño Barella family (and grandsons Luis and Carlos Barella); plus work by painters Charlee Shroyer, Narrie Toole and Beverly Branch. He also carries Jicarilla Apache and Navajo baskets, plus what he terms "really important pieces" by Zuni potter Nellie Bica (1904-c.1990s).
"Angie (Yazzie) has perfected the art of the thin wall pot, as opposed to the more traditional work made for cook stoves, and all Beverly Branch's models are from Taos Pueblo," Slay further elaborated, also pointing out some prints by Perry Sandy, a contemporary of Merina -- Pop Chalee-- Lujan (1906-1993); and the glass-and-wire woven pieces by Charlotte Miller. Pop Chalee or "Blue Flower," is featured in a special exhibition on view now at the Harwood Museum, 238 Ledoux Street.
Be sure to ask about the R.C. Gorman sketchbook, circa 1958 from the sojourn Gorman took in Mexico City, that Slay has on display in a large glass showcase toward the back of the gallery. And don't miss the works by all the Acoma, Ohkay Owingeh, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo and Taos Pueblo artists.
Jackie's Trading Post is located at 129 North Taos Plaza. For more information, call (575) 758-4828 or see jackiestradingpost.com.
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