clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


On weekends, the Enciso family sometimes heads to the mountains to look for mud.

Mud that tastes right. Tasting is the only way you can tell if the mud will be good for making Pueblo Acoma pottery, says Trina Enciso. Sometimes Trina and her husband, Paul, and their children will search an entire weekend and not find what they're looking for.When they do find the right mud, says Paul, they never take more than they need. "We've been taught not to be greedy," he explains.

The philosophy, the persistence and the pots are part of the Encisos' Pueblo upbringing - a tradition that the couple tries hard to keep alive.

Next weekend, the Encisos will be one of two dozen local artists who will demonstrate their folk and ethnic arts at the fourth annual Living Traditions Festival.

The festival - free to the public - runs May 19 through 21 at Pioneer Trail State Park. In addition to arts and crafts, the festival will also feature performing arts and food.

From Armenian needlework to Maori dance to Vietnamese egg rolls, the Living Traditions Festival celebrates the mix that makes Salt Lake City more of a melting pot than it appears at first glance.

Through these folk and ethnic arts, "individuals gain a sense of their own identity, and communities perpetuate themselves," notes Casey Jarman of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, which, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Folk Arts Program of the Utah Arts Council, sponsors the event.

Paul and Trina Enciso want to perpetuate their Pueblo heritage, which is why they have taught each of their six children the Pueblo weaving and Acoma pottery techniques that they learned from their own parents and grandparents.

"I think I'm the only person anywhere who knows all the (Pueblo weaving) techniques," says Paul, coordinator of the Indian Education Program in the Granite School District.

The Encisos also hope to revive the art of Pueblo figurine making, an art which has died out because of tourist demand for bigger pottery items. Like a lot of Pueblo art, the figurines always teach a lesson, says Paul - "respect for elders, how to be kind to animals. A variety of virtues."

Although most of the crafts and arts that will be displayed and performed at the weekend festival have been passed on from generation to generation, at least one was learned by chance.

It took imprisonment in a war camp in Germany, in fact, for British-born Les Teasdale to learn the accordion. He will play traditional songs from England as part of the Living Traditions program.

Teasdale, who fought for the British Army in North Africa during World War II, was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1942. Sent to an Italian war camp, then released, then recaptured again, he was later sent to a camp in Germany. Because he could play the piano, the Germans put him in charge of entertainment for the camp - but the only instrument they could scare up was an accordion.

Teasdale eventually taught himself how to play the thing, and when the Germans were forced to retreat he marched for months with the heavy instrument slung over his shoulder.

Forty-five years later, Teasdale is still playing the accordion. On returning to England he played in clubs, and since moving to Salt Lake City nine years ago he has continued to play at occasional weddings and at the annual Christmas party at Little America, where he now works as a bellman.

"I don't really consider I'm a professional," says Teasdale modestly. But like other performers and artists at the Living Traditions Festival, he hopes to keep memories and traditions alive.


(Additional information)

Festival schedule

Pow-wows, polkas and Palestinian munchies are some of the hundreds of crafts, arts and food that will be featured at the Living Traditions Festival, May 19 to 21 at Pioneer Trail State Park. The events include:

- Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band, 6:45 to 8 p.m. May 10. Ida and her 7-piece band will perform upbeat traditional Cajun-Creole music of Southern Louisiana.

- Three stages of music and dance from local artists, including El Mozaic (music from north Africa and the Middle East), Basque Folk Dance and Scottish bagpipe music.

- Food from 18 cultures, including Lebanese, Philippine and Swedish.

- Cooking demonstrations Saturday at 2 and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 and 4 p.m.

- Craft demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening, including Afghani silk embroidery, Hmong needlework and American whittling.

- For information about exact times call the Salt Lake City Arts Council, 596-5000.