Press: Business Profiles: Of Fetishes and Other Obsessions

Winter 2008-2009
by Keiko Ohnuma
in Santa Fe Trend via the web

Keshi was a tiny shop tucked into a downtown Santa Fe pedestrian mall when Robin Dunlap took over a craft cooperative that she and other teachers had helped set up at Zuni Pueblo. It was 1981, and the shop sold jewelry, plus a few carved fetishes.

With the surge of fascination in Native America in the late 1980s, demand for the talismans swelled to the point that Keshi moved into a much larger space—formerly occupied by a restaurant—in 2002. Sales jumped from there. Now run by Dunlap’s daughter Bronwyn Fox-Bern, the store carries the work of 600 artists who fill its glass cases with a mind-boggling menagerie of exquisite creatures.

Competitors also have mushroomed over the years, but Keshi’s strong commitment to Zuni fetishes has earned it a reputation for expertise that its owners trace to close relationships with the artists’ families. Fox-Bern went to grade school on the pueblo and recently celebrated her marriage there; she emphasizes that the store is subtitled “the Zuni Connection” because its business is about the affinity people feel for a particular animal carving, as well as those special ties her family has to the pueblo.

She and Dunlap have found they must constantly fight the proliferation of fakes through education and advocacy. “If people come in and get a little better perspective, even if they buy nothing, I’m perfectly happy,” Fox-Bern says of her mission to safeguard value for Zuni artisans and her seven-employee business.

Inherently collect-ible, fetishes are evolving rapidly in subject matter and materials, Fox-Bern says, drawing new generations to the store and its Web site to feed their addiction. “We always reiterate, it’s just a tool; it’s you who have the power,” she tells shoppers, showing a thorough understanding of the magnetism of her vast inventory. “When you honor the animal spirit in the fetish, you honor it in yourself.”

Bronwyn Fox-Bern, Owner of Keshi
Reprinted with permission by Sara Stathas, photographer
Reprinted with permission by Santa Fe Trend & Keiko Ohnuma, author.