By Debbie Stone. Photos: Linda Carfagno
Natalie Fitz-Gerald likes to refer to her shop as a “visual feast,” which accounts for how often she produces that special “wow” factor among her customers. The Santa Fe resident owns Casa Nova, an up-market gallery located in the city’s historic Railyard district.
A medley of cultural fusion, Fitz-Gerald personally sources her stock from primarily southern African countries, though other regions of the world are also well represented. “I was born in South Africa,” she notes, “and for many years I admired all the wonderful art being done in rural cooperatives. I knew I wanted to open a store one day and sell those incredible products.”
“I work with anywhere from 25 to 30 cooperatives at any given time,” says Fitz-Gerald. “It’s a collaborative effort with regards to design, product development and marketing, and I always strive to be very sensitive to issues of heritage and tradition.”
An advantage that Natalie admits she has over other cooperative groups is, because she has only one gallery, she is able to source from very small cooperatives that are not able to produce for larger fair trade stores. For example, Fitz-Gerald recently visited Oaxaca, Mexico for the first time, and found a woman’s cooperative of 30 weavers. She returned with an amazing collection of colorful table linens, and plans for more collaboration in the future.
She is also working with a small cooperative from China for an exhibition during the Folk Art Market. This collective is involved in preserving the traditional techniques and textile handicrafts of southern China. Fitz-Gerald also hopes to host an exceptional artist from Mali over the summer who designs jewelry, textiles and furniture, and currently shows his work in the European market. A one-ofa-kind jewelry designer from France will also be highlighted this summer season, with her first exhibition of sophisticated ethnic-inspired work in the United States.
Fitz-Gerald admits that her goal was not only to bring out some of the best of Africa’s artistic talent, but also to support and nurture the artists, craftspeople and designers in the interest of poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihood creation. Each of the artists typically supports 10 to 15 people, the vast majority being women with extended families who depend on them. “Your purchase helps give them a sustainable income toward financial independence,” she says. She notes how her customers love the stories behind the products, as well as the fact they can make purchases with a social conscience.
Natalie also honors and supports local talent. Her amazing eye for fine design and craft creates an ever changing range of inventory in Casa Nova, which ranges from bedding and kitchenware to home décor pieces, jewelry and folk art. Casa Nova is also considered a must-see for locals to bring their out-of-town visitors, and the perfect place to find that unusual gift item.
Fitz-Gerald also leads tours to Africa once a year, an insider’s tour for those interested in exploring the continent in depth. She infuses the experience with cultural and culinary forays, as well as with a hearty dose of adventure.
Casa Nova by Natalie | 530 S. Guadalupe St. | 505.983.8558 | CasaNovaGallery.com