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Wabanaki artists take top spots at Santa Fe Indian Market

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BAR HARBOR Three Wabanaki artists from Maine won a total of five ribbons at the 2015 Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico. Abbe Museum Fellow Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy, won first and second place in Youth Division B, which is her third consecutive year winning the top two spots. Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot, won first place in Miniature Baskets and second place in Traditional Basketry, and Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, received an Honorable Mention in Traditional Basketry.

For the past 90 years, Santa Fe Indian Market has been bringing together the most talented Native American artists from around the US. As the largest Native arts fair in the world, the market spans an entire plaza and surrounding streets, and consists of a myriad of events galas, art openings, music and experiences, fashion shows and the much-anticipated juried art show. Of the more than 1,000 artists who participated this year, seven were Wabanaki artists from the state of Maine.

"I love going to Santa Fe Indian Market to be able to sell my baskets, and to be able to see other Indian artists sell their work,' said Soctomah. 'The most exciting part for me was winning first and second place in the youth competition for the third year in a row! There are so many other people in the competition, so you don't know if you're going to win or not. I'm excited to see if I can win first and second place again next year."

Soctomah is an 11-year-old honor student who credits her grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker, as her inspiration. She is the apprentice of her brother, George Neptune, and spends the majority of her time outside of school making baskets. This summer she got the opportunity to teach Franklin Delano Roosevelt's great grandchildren how to weave a basket. Roosevelt was good friends with Tomah Joseph, who was from Indian Township and knew Soctomah and Neptune's family.

"It's always an inspiring experience just to attend Santa Fe Indian Market,' said Sockbeson. 'I'm incredibly honored to receive recognition for my work as an artist, but especially proud to represent Wabanaki art on a national level, share our northeastern traditions and represent my tribe in a positive way."

Sockbeson's two winning baskets featured deer antler handles, which she sliced into cross-sections and then carved and polished, drilling a hole through the center. She has said that all the antler handles she makes are unique for each basket. Sockbeson's great-grandmother made Penobscot baskets in the early 1900s on Indian Island, and her grandfather Henry Sockbeson was a carpenter and his parents were basket makers from the Passamaquoddy tribe. Sockbeson's unique style incorporates many different elements of traditional Wabanaki technique, combining the tradition with innovative colors to create a fresh, new approach.

'I always enjoy attending the Santa Fe Indian Market to be around the other artists, seeing their new work, being inspired by contemporary adaptations of traditional art it's the best feeling in the world,' said Neptune. 'This year I was very excited to claim my second ribbon, and I was even more excited to see my sister and apprentice, Emma, claim first and second for the third year in a row! At this point, people come to our table looking for her more often than they ask for me, and I'm very proud of her!'

Neptune has been making baskets since he was four years old. His grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker, tells stories of George as a young child, stealing scraps of her ash and sweet grass to knot them into his own 'basket' creations. Neptune has continued weaving through the years, fine-tuning his skills and attention to detail, and now his baskets take on a sculptural element that is unique to his style. Woven flowers, the signature of his family's work, and woven birds (Neptune's personal signature) were both featured on his honorable mention basket at Santa Fe.

Other Wabanaki artists accepted to attend the fair were Abbe Museum Trustee Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot; Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy; Ganessa Frey, Penobscot; and Theresa Secord, Penobscot.

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