Sally, Amy and me

I don’t really feel like blogging today. I’m still not settled in after going to visit my friend Sally in Estancia this weekend. Do you remember Sally? She’s also a patternmaker, originally from NYC. Anyway, she invited me up to meet her friend Amy who was visiting from Centralia WA and who is also originally from NY. Sally doesn’t drop names (but could); Amy Downs is a famous hat designer so I was excited to meet her. I found out later that Amy’s sister is the singer Lila Downs. Now that I’m sitting here writing this, I wish I’d asked her more questions about her work. My impression is that she produces when she feels like it and it doesn’t matter what’s popular. She says that the one time she followed the trends, her stuff sold -she sells everything she makes; people collect her- but under protest. Her stores didn’t like it at all so she doesn’t follow trends. Amy’s husband Gary is -get this- a successful magic trick inventor and manufacturer. Amy is interesting to say the least. Obviously, Sally collects interesting people; I flatter myself by thinking I’m one of them.

If you recall, it’s a little over 200 miles to Sally’s place from Las Cruces. Heading north, I was going to take a picture of the guy at the border patrol checkpoint like I did last time but he seemed rather humorless about it. I decided to take landscape pictures for you this time. I realize New Mexico is an acquired taste but there’s beauty in these wide panoramic views of the horizon.


This is Amy outside of Sally’s house. In real life you’d see that Amy is a sensory delight of color. She inspired me.

Amy was so inspiring to me because I like her taste in colors, that’s what I like too. Wild, bright garish colors. My ex-husband (who fancies himself an artist) said I had a lousy sense of color so not having any other options, I gravitated towards neutrals and black. Amy’s proof that strong colors can work. I noticed that I felt more upbeat around Amy and her colors -her outfits are visually striking- but get this, the colors were enhancing. They weren’t so garish that they’d hijack your screen. She’s inspired me to redecorate the house. You’d have to see our house, it’s awful. It’s drab and our sofa should have been dumped years ago. The sofa -by the way- is not to be believed. It defies exaggeration, I kid you not. If minimalism has drained rather than invigorated my environment, I’ve gone too far (asceticism). When we get a new sofa, I’ll put up a picture of it.

Above is a picture of Sally. She’s going to kill me when she sees this on the blog but I love this picture and I love, love the shoes. I also loved the fact that she just dressed however. People always think that people in the fashion industry get dolled up and it’s just not true. Few of us are Amys.

Below is a picture of Sally, Amy and Festus, Sally’s dog. Festus likes me. He’s very shy. I think he likes me because I avoid making eye contact (eye contact can be very threatening to dogs). I think he’s part Ridgeback and part Heeler. I worry about her out here, she’s 11 miles from town but with Festus, I worry less. He looks too thin to me but then, I’d probably overfeed him.

Later that day, Sally took us into Estancia (population 1,500); Estancia is about 40 miles south east of Albuquerque. I loved Estancia -a really long story. Here is a picture of their public library.

This library was built by Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture and it won 3 of 5 top AIA awards for architecture. It cost one million dollars to build. The money to build it was donated by Willis and Corine Williams (brother and sister). I can’t get a fix on who they were. Apparently Corrine was well to do before she died. Her brother donated the money in her memory. It’s a lovely story. Towns of this size rarely enjoy such gifts.

Behind the library is the community swimming pool (below). For such a tiny town, their social infrastructure is quite amazing. This is a beautiful pool.

As it was, the pool wasn’t open yet but the mayor -yes, the mayor- was there cleaning the pool and filling it so it’d be ready to open on Memorial Day weekend. The mayor is Marty Hibbs and he is wildly popular. He has really turned this town around; it’s absolutely amazing what one person -and his wife Margarita- can do. The town librarian (Angela Creamer) says Marty is the guy to call because in addition to managing the town, he’s the one to call to unclog toilets or anything else that goes wrong. The last time I drove through Estancia, the middle of town was a dump. Literally. Now it’s a beautiful park. Below is a picture of the mayor of Estancia NM.

Below is a picture of Amy and Sally on Sunday morning. Amy is quite bright!

Below is a picture of me and Amy. I look so washed out standing next to her. You’ll note I’m wearing my house slippers and wearing the hat she gave me, an Amy Downs original!

I left on Sunday, and Amy and Sally went to Taos to see the Millicent Rogers Museum; I had no idea that museum was in Taos. I’ll definitely stop there when we go to Taos next month for the Solar Music Festival. Millicent Rogers was an heiress, granddaughter of one of the original founders of Standard Oil. While she was a legend in the fashion industry, she was a compassionate and tireless humanitarian as well. From the Taos news:

[…] Rogers assembled influential friends with the purpose of addressing the rights and cultural value of Native Americans. In 1947, a busy year for Rogers, she and authors Frank Waters, Oliver Lafarge and Lucius Beebe hired lawyers and went to Washington to lobby for Indian citizenship. At that time, Native Americans were considered as numbers and couldn’t even get passports. Their mission was the formation of more humane policies in which to govern America’s affairs with the eight northern Pueblos in New Mexico. Rogers also successfully fought for Indian art to be classified as “historic,” thus providing protection and status. Because Rogers was well-known and influential, she called upon the magazines that had written so much about her to help spread the word of her cause.

Sally told me that Millicent Rogers was able to convince Balenciaga to make her some peasant blouses. Considering the kind of influence and money she had, it’s humbling to know she was buried “in an Indian blouse, skirt, moccasins and wrapped in a Navajo blanket”.

On the way back I took a picture of the Rio Grande as it is much in the news lately. At this point, the Rio Grande is running north and south and this is what the river looks like in Sally’s neck of the woods (or desert if you prefer).

For contrast, I took a picture of the river in Las Cruces (below). Just 40 miles south of here, the river makes an abrupt turn running east and continues on south easterly. This section of the river is what marks the boundary between the United States and Mexico. Here is the river about two miles from my house.

I had a great weekend; New Mexico is such a lovely place and I really should get out more.

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19 comments

  1. Josh says:

    That first pic of the open expanse scares me. I’m severely agoraphobic. I’d need very dark sunglasses and a valium to make it down that road. I need trees!
    That pic of you with the hat is cute. You look like a character in a kids book. I’m saving this photo for research. I’m working on a drag performance of you. lol I’d to see a more close up view of your hat.

  2. Jeff says:

    Love the hat!

    I also love New Mexico, no valium for me, please. I could wander the Land of Enchantment forever. At one time in life I did just this, however, back home they repoed my furniture. Typical.

    And gosh, thanks for introducing us to the mayor of Estancia! Do you have any pictures of the sheriff? I need one for my wallet.

    Sally is a hotty!

  3. Kathleen says:

    Do you have any pictures of the sheriff? I need one for my wallet.

    No, I don’t have a picture of one but I’ll be sure to get one on my next visit. The sheriff -get this- is the only black sheriff in the state of NM. Estancia seems to be more and more different the closer you look.

  4. Eric H says:

    Yeah, the couch is an expression of our asceticism. At least that sounds better than “perfunctory provision of furniture for our guests” and/or “utilitarian”, not to mention, “I’m too lazy to get a new one and I’d probably still prefer to sit on the floor.”

  5. Judith says:

    I grew up 2.5 hrs from Centraila, Wa. Dh and I went to Centraila at Christmas time looked at antiques this town has some beautiful ones. I love Sally’s fabric from her slacks. The hat is very nice that Amy made you. This is great that you went and visited friends for the weeked and got out of town. Where does Amy sell her hats at??? Thankyou.

  6. Gigi says:

    I love New Mexico! I grew up in Texas and travelled there often to visit relatives. Your photos are great and I adore the hat Amy made you – it’s fabulously witty.

  7. Martha says:

    I grew up in Northern Arizona and always thought of New Mexico as a sort of ‘stepchild’. Now my daughter lives in Albuquerque and I love to explore New Mexico when we visit from Vermont.

  8. La BellaDonna says:

    I’m in love with Marty Hibbs. I love the people who will do things themselves in order to get them really, truly done. He and his wife sound amazing – and Estancia sounds like a really good place to live.

  9. Angela Creamer says:

    Kathleen, Thanks for mentioning me. I still haven’t gotten over to introduce myself to Sally and she only lives a mile from me! But in fairness to me…. I discovered I have an allergy to seafood. I’ll spare you the details. Thank you for the book. Its in the librarys collection. Now your truly famous!

  10. frank Ockenfels says:

    im looking for amy downs..i had bought a few stray hats from her years ago from her shop on ludlow and wonder if they are still availible to buy or be made.please contact me fo3

  11. Viridiana says:

    I’m a huge fan of Amy’s hats but now that’s she’s left NYC I don’t know how to feed my addiction. And I really miss her colorful personality around the nabe. Can someone give me her new contact info? Thanks.

  12. kevin hazlett/kari amdahl says:

    Hi Amy hope your’e as sweet as you ever was,I Have a wife,julia,son,james,a daughter,lucy and we are making coffee {14 years}still make music everyday turned pro at 14 years now i’m 12123000.00 James did that Do you hear from kari?
    so long for now.Your ancient friend Kevin Calhoun Hazlett Now James will write to you in spanish!mi papa es muy valioso. mi papa puede ser muy buen en enenstrumentos.Now he is a slamin’ Guitar keyboard guy but mainly James and Lucy are spanish immersion kids, we are mucho loco Love,Kevin

  13. sophie vieille says:

    would you be kind enough to send me amy and sally’s emails? We are old friends and I am glad to have read about them two on your site, tu

  14. Peggy says:

    Hi,
    You are a lucky woman to have met Amy Downs. It was heartbreaking to many of us when she left the Lower East Side.
    I feel really fortunate to own about a dozen of her designs from the little shop on Ludlow. And I’m very happy to see her with that big smile.
    If you do see Amy again tell her her fans still wave at each other across streets when we spy a fellow collector. The we make sad weeping faces. This is really true ya know.
    Thanks for posting the Amy update.
    Peggy (Still designing and painting on East 7th)

  15. leslie says:

    I just bought an Amy Downs hat from The Hat Shop in SoHo. I love the hat so much that I decide to google her, I’m a new fan. It was custom made (because I have a big head) so I know Amy is still making hats. I love the shop, ask for Linda. 8/25/07

  16. Jean Moeller says:

    I’m looking for Amy Downs. I used to design and sew clothes and hats in Eugene, Oregon and knew her in the early 70’s. Did she get flooded out of Centralia and return to NYC? That is what I have heard from a mutual acquaintance. I’m overdue a trip back east.

    The story about Sally, Amy and me in New Mexico is very charming.

  17. clairz says:

    I guess it’s true that we bloggers can never imagine how we may impact some random reader. I came across this post when researching for info about Estancia. Thanks to your photos and information about the town we knew where to go and what to look for when we traveled there yesterday. That park in the center of town with the pond, the pool, the fountain, the library, etc. was absolutely beautiful and made us feel that this was a town that really cares about its people.

    My family thanks you for taking the time to write this post. I have to admit that I am curious about the “long story” about why you love this town….

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