Wandering around the Hondo Iris Farm
In Hondo, you can wander through the rows of exotic Iris plants, sit on a bench in a small wooded area, cross a bridge over a 150 year old irrigation ditch, walk up a landscaped birm, and enter a gallery filled with paintings, sculpture, jewelry and artisans handiwork from places as remote as Bulgaria, Africa, Russia, and Kashmere. In the process you can sip tea or coffee, and visit with the artist in residence, Alice Seely. During your visit, your only task is to enjoy yourself and experience the beauty of the Hondo Valley. There is no admission charge and no obligation to purchase anything.
The Hondo Iris Farm, open from 10-5 Friday’s, Saturdays, and Sundays, and other times by appointment, is located at mile marker 284, marked by a towering sign, easily visible on the South side of Highway 70.
During May, the Irises are in bloom and they are the main event. Alice has assembled an impressive collection of Irises, noteworthy because of their long flowing beards, and fantastic variations in color. One section of the farm contains prize winning varieties hybridized since 1990; another section is filled with “antique irises” planted at the turn of the century in the Hondo Valley. Alice, a native Santa Fean who moved to Hondo 10 years ago, also brought with her a number of the “Old Santa Fe Irises” that have grown along the Northern New Mexico “acequias” for centuries.
The Gallery, a recent 1100 square foot addition to a revitalized100 year old Adobe building, is divided into two sections.
The entrance section is filled with pewter jewelry designed by Alice, and fabricated in her “factory” down the road, where she works with 7 employees, filling orders for over 500 museum gift shops, galleries, and national parks around the country: including the Smithsonian, the Grand Canyon National Parks, the Denver Art Museum, The Detroit Art Museum, The Museum of New Mexico, and the Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
The hallmarks of her “Urban Fetishes” pewter jewelry line are her pins, packaged in matchbooks, with writing on the back of the packaging. Customers purchase these pins both for their original designs and because they find Alice’s writing, interesting and inspirational. Alice began with fourteen angel pins, including such titles as “friendship angel”, “healing angel”, “garden angel” and tongue in cheek angels like “air force angel.” She soon moved on to develop other lines of pins: friends, petroglyphs, Egyptian, unworldly thoughts, and her now best selling line of “menopause pins.” According to Alice, “the success of menopause pins has been so phenomenal nationally, they enabled us to purchase and build the Iris Farm.” Alice has written and illustrated a small book, entitled, The Chaos of Menopause is the only thing I haven’t been able to blame on my mother. She sells this book along with her pins, and to date has sold more than 10,000 copies.
In addition to her basic “matchbook pin” line, Alice fabricates bracelets, fancy earrings and necklaces, all of which retail for less than $75.00. Alice has also supplemented her jewelry line with a set of historic New Mexico retablos inspired by art from New Mexico churches and homes. (Her “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” easel was recently listed as a best seller in the Marshall Field’s Catalog.)
Her other line, paying homage to New Mexico’s Hispanic heritage, is designed around Frida Kahlo imagery, and includes pins, bracelets, and icons.
Since then she has moved on to develop a Judaica series including Tzedakah or charity boxes, Mezuza cases, and Tree of Life pins with Hebrew.
Alice has deliberately kept her jewelry off the market in Southern New Mexico , with an eye to starting her own store where she could sell to locals at discount prices, without fear of unfairly competing with other stores in the area.
Prior to starting her jewelry business, Alice made her living as a painter and clay sculpture artist and showed her work in a number of galleries in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Michigan, New York, and Florida. The main section of the gallery is now furnished with her paintings and sculpture, along with the work of other “selected” artisans from around the world. (Alice finds these artists at the many trade shows she travels to in marketing her jewelry. Many of whom are now her friends.)
Her international crafts include a line of contemporary bowls, vases, and cups made in a Bulgarian village; museum quality baskets and Kuba cloth made in Africa, wall hangings and pillow coverings, hand embroidered in Kashmere, some with traditional Navajo weaving designs, others with the designs of modern artists such as Klimpt, Miro, and Kandinsky. Alice recently began showing a line of reasonably priced, beaded burnt velvet jackets that are “so stunning she has a hard time keeping them in stock”
Rounding out the international collection, is a large selection of finely woven baskets from Pakistan and China.
Since “Made in the USA” is an important part of Alice’s credo, the gallery also represents a American artists, including artist from New Jersey who makes mosaic mirrors, a nationally recognized raku artist from Alpine, Texas (ornaments and rattles), a garden sculpture artist from Tennessee, and other American artists who make such varied items as clay wind chimes and a never-before-seen line of refrigerator magnets.
Alice is moving into fashion design with a line of hand embroidered jackets. Using her contacts, she is having her designs embroidered in Kashmere, the silk linings made in a small Laotian village, and the sewing done in this country. Alice intends to market these jackets both regionally and at fashion shows around the country, including New York. Her goal is to have them on display at her gallery by mid summer.
Anyone wishing to reach Alice to schedule a visit to the Iris Farm during the week, can call her at her factory at 505 653 4062. .
Alice has scheduled a “Hondo Iris Extravaganza” during May, when the Iris are in full bloom.
If you are in the area, please come visit between the hours of 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. (Hint, the garden is most beautiful in the morning and late afternoon (past three).
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