Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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MAIDA Is the Homeware Site Bringing Indigenous and Mestizx Artists to the Fore

Down a winding road and past a hand-painted yellow sign offering “PiGS” plus a phone number sits a small adobe house. When I visited in early February, Maida Branch emerged, tailed by two exuberant puppies, and led me to the property’s studio. Once a furniture maker’s workshop, it’s now the base of her online store MAIDA.

“Growing up in New Mexico, the advice was to leave,” Branch said, pouring herbal tea and seeming quite settled despite relocating to Rio Arriba county from Santa Fe a week earlier. “We were told opportunity doesn’t exist and that we’d never find jobs. So at 18 or 20, many of us left.” After nearly a decade in New York and L.A., she returned in 2018 to start what would become MAIDA, exploring her home state and history in the process.

“Throughout my life, I’ve been frustrated by my own inability to fully speak from a place of what I am,” Branch said. “My family was told they could be killed if they identified as Native American and they’ve assimilated really intensely and been forced to forget a lot about where we came from.” Her great-great grandmother was a Zuni captiva, or member of the Pueblo kidnapped and sold into slavery by the Spanish. Branch identifies as Mestiza, “someone that is of both Native and Spanish blood, a descendant of the slave and the slave holder, of colonists that came to New Mexico and the Indigenous people they forcefully married and had children with.”

MAIDA features the work of a handful of Indigenous and Mestizx artists of the Southwest, using a profit-sharing model where 50% of the product’s price goes directly to the artists. One such artist, Camilla Trujillo, recreates pottery found in archeological digs in Eastern New Mexico, showcasing the interplay between Spanish Franciscan design and local pottery traditions.

Selling pieces by Indigenous artists can be complicated, Branch noted, since not everything made is meant to be sold or used by outsiders. But MAIDA doesn’t sell ceremonial or sacred items; everything for sale is open to use by anyone. Silver jewelry is made in Navajo Nation by Gino Antonio, who uses techniques taught to him by his grandfather. He often casts pieces in tufa, a porous stone, which produces a textured finish. “Camilla and Gino are business relationships, in a sense, but more than anything they’ve become mentors and elders,” Branch said.

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