Despite Fall Arts grabbing center stage, Taos Pueblo/Hopi jeweler and silversmith Jacqueline Gala has her nose to the grindstone, well, more like her metal buffer, getting ready for San Geronimo Day, the annual feast day of San Geronimo at Taos Pueblo a heartbeat away on Sept. 29 and 30.

Then, right on the heels of San Geronimo Day is another annual event that is especially popular with visitors, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 6-14. She shows work at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, which gets swamped with balloon fiestagoers. The cultural center is hailed as the "gateway to the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico," so Gala makes sure she has enough of her signature work to satisfy all comers.

"I just got my studio gallery redone through a grant from a Los Alamos group, the Regional Development Corporation's Native American Venture Acceleration Fund," Gala said last week. Key to the redo is a brand new inside buffer that exhausts to the outside.

"That has helped tremendously, cleaning the air of the acetylene torch fumes," she explained. "That's why a lot of silversmiths get metal poisoning, and stone cutters get lung disease, from the metal and dust they inhale."

Even wearing a mask and working outside on her old buffer, she said, is not really good enough to protect artists whose work needs grinding and buffing. "Everything I do is now indoors and (the particulates) all just go away."

Currently caring for her 100-year-old aunt who lives next door to Gala's home studio on Taos Pueblo, she is able to get more done with the new set-up, despite caretaking. "It has really increased my production," she said, stressing how grateful she is to Rose Reza for helping with the grant application.

Since she has upped her production, she wants to do more shows. Currently she does the juried shows of Santa Fe Indian Market and the Phoenix Heard Museum show. She said she's been asked to put work in the Heard Museum, and once San Geronimo arts and crafts show is over, she'll get busy and send them a package of "stuff" the first week of March.

A notable silversmith, Gala was featured in "Remarkable Women of Taos" (Nighthawk Press; 2013), a yearlong project and ultimately a publication honoring 167 "outstanding historic and contemporary women of Taos."

"Painting was my first love," Gala said. "It was something I did as a young person in high school. I used to draw things, like in science and the teacher would ask, 'Can I use this for my class?' It was my parents who saw that I had an interest in art and they sent me to high school at IAIA (Institute for American Indian Arts)."

From painting to photography and finally to silversmithing, she gradually found a medium that satisfied her aesthetic. "I have so much - working with silver and knowing that you can do so much with it."

She perfected her lost-wax technique through the Native American Poeh Art Center in Pojoaque. Fascinated by all things artistic and beautiful, she is considering adding to her media repertoire, looking into other art forms through the Poeh center.

Gala's father, Carmen Gala, was in the military, so she spent summers and then about four years living at Taos Pueblo with her mother Antonita Lujan Gala's clan, where she and two siblings learned the Taos Pueblo ways.

Born in 1962, she moved permanently to the Pueblo in 1982 to raise her two children, Nigel and Nastassja, now grown. "I've been doing this 25 years. I credit a lot to my kids. Both are artistic."

She says her life partner, muralist and architectural painter David Vedoe, has expanded her scope of art and describes an enviable partnership where they each evaluate, appreciate and cooperate with each others' process.

Vedoe, by the way, is 2018's 44th Annual Taos Fall Arts Festival poster image artist.

"We see things similarly," she says. "We are each other's eyes. When a piece is done, we give each other hugs. He's not ahead or behind me. He's there!"

"I'm so happy with my new studio," she said. "David sees what I need, like a bookshelf or something, and now the new buffer; the way it grows each year … it's getting that 'Gala' character."

For more information, see Facebook/Jacqueline Gala. Look for her new website by year's end.

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