I took April off from Form and Space to go on my honeymoon. My husband, Peter, and I flew to Phoenix, Arizona. From there, we drove to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Page, and Sedona. Neither of us had been to the Southwest before and we were constantly in awe of the beautiful, ever-changing landscape.
While on our honeymoon, we made an effort to eat at local restaurants and support local businesses whenever possible. We researched restaurants ahead of time so that we wouldn’t fall back on the ease of spotting a chain on the side of the highway.
When I was younger, I would spend all of my souvenir money on keychains and magnets, things I didn’t end up keeping, got lost, or broke within a few months of returning home. On a chilly evening in Peru, I purchased a hand-woven sweater. It’s the only item I still have from that trip and I wear it a decade later. After this revelation, I switched to wearable souvenirs or handmade pieces that will last. Remembering my sweater and spurred on by Maddie’s recent essay, Collecting Craft, I decided I wanted to use the funds I’d saved for souvenirs on handmade items. It should have been the obvious choice for an artist but if you’ve ever found yourself in a rest stop or gift shop, you’ll know it’s surprisingly difficult to find things that are not mass produced.
Page, Arizona is a city of around 8,000 residents on the southern edge of the Great Basin Desert. To get there, we drove through Navajo and Hopi land; open plains and desert as far as the eye could see while all along the Colorado River flowed through an unseen canyon to the left of the highway. We went to Page to visit Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon formed by coursing floodwaters through Navajo Sandstone, and Horseshoe Bend, a meander of the Colorado River only visible once you hike out to the edge of a cliff. On a windy day, we took shelter from blowing sand inside the John Wesley Powell Museum and Visitor Center. The museum had an overview of Colorado River history, local geology and paleontology, a trading post, and a small gallery of Arizona artists. Beside the Teratophoneus fossil was an unnamed triptych. After hunting for a label, I discovered it was by printmaker Kate Aitchison, who is originally from Flagstaff but currently teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Aitchison’s work focuses on human interventions in the natural landscape. The piece on display seemed to refer to the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Lake Powell is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States and has had a large ecological impact on the Colorado River and surrounding areas.
For more of Kate Aitchison’s vivid relief prints of landscapes, topographical maps, and human intervention, check out her website.
Just before leaving the museum, we came across woodworker Don Iversoen’s pieces. I picked up the smallest cedar vessel and turned it over in my hands. The wood grain patterns looked like the sandstone cross-bedding I’d seen everywhere in Page. Now when I walk past it in our dining room, I’m transported back to Page with Peter, surrounded by vermilion and the great wide open.
From Page, we drove three hours south to Sedona. This was one of my favorite days of our trip. We drove through flat open plains, then mountain snow, to finally descend winding switchbacks into Oak Creek Canyon, a beautiful part of Coconino National Forest. The Verde Valley has been home to indigenous groups since 600 CE but the city of Sedona was named in 1902 by fruit farmers and ranchers. Due to its picturesque beauty, Sedona quickly attracted artists like Dorothea Tanning and her husband, Max Ernst. Meanwhile, more than 60 Hollywood productions were filmed in the area between 1923 and 1970.
This is all to say that while Sedona is breathtakingly beautiful, it had much more of a tourist feel than Page. While exploring the gallery district, Peter and I came across a ton of shops all selling the same merchandise. Luckily I knew that the Sedona Arts Center was a short walk away. The Sedona Arts Center was founded in 1958 and started in an apple and peach packing barn. While they still use the barn for classrooms and studios, they also have a large streetside gallery. Looking around the gallery, I fell in love with a set of cups made by ceramicist Neil Kennedy and then a watercolor painting titled Noticias de la hoy (News of the Day) by Gretchen Lopez. We went back and forth trying to decide which to buy when Peter pointed out that he was less likely to break the painting. Lopez teaches painting, life drawing, and portraiture at SAC. We have since hung Noticias de la hoy in our kitchen where we can appreciate it while cooking; it is a window to Sedona sunshine, 12,000 year old cliff dwellings, and holding my husband’s hand while looking up at the Milky Way.
I’m so glad we were able to bring home meaningful mementoes from our honeymoon. They will last us a lifetime and we were able to support artists in the process. Not to mention that while packing to fly home I didn’t have to sit on my suitcase to zip it shut!