My daughter tells me, “I think I was born with a hammer and chisel in my hand”, and this reminds me of myself. I grew up in Vadito and my father Rubel could make things out of whatever he found. One time he made a rope out of twine and horsehair and from him I learned how to make things from around the house. I made animalitos out of the same twine and horsehair. I always looked for wood in the forest which looked like animals or people and I would make these into art pieces to give to my family and friends.
It wasn’t until WPA days that I started to work with wood when I learned how to make furniture, and with left overs, I would carve burros, cows, horse, deer—animals which I saw. A Senor Lopez was my supervisor during the WPA days and I worked with Elidio Romero who was a good furniture maker and carver. Both of them were from Taos. I didn’t make anything to show or sell, I just gave everything away. In Vadito I learned how to make pottery because long time ago we made pottery like the Picuris.
Sometime time in the 1970’s I began to make furniture, pottery, and carve santos and animals from wood, but I never gave up looking for natural wood which has already been carved. I just put it together, make a base and it become art. When my son, Gabriel Jr., went to the marines, I got started carving, making pottery and using natural wood art to sell in our shop. We use to live in Vadito and moved to Placita in 1963. It was when I ran for county commissioner, lost and I decided to build a store. Adeliade and I started the store with three cases of coke which we borrowed and a couple boxes of candy bars. Since 1963 I have been at this store with my wife and my children selling auto parts, but we sell arts as much as anything else.
My children like to do art—we never use to call it art. Now my children and grandchildren make art and we sell that we make here in our store (Gonzales Auto Parts). Our whole family makes things to sell in the store, we do lots of other things but we always come back to making art.
Gabriel Sr.'s involvement with Open Studio will help contribute to the goal of the "cultural and artistic preservation of our historic communities" by sharing not only his art but the history behind the art. He thinks the training classes will be good for him.
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