Her first shop, across from the Thunderbird Lodge, was “the size of a closet.” It was only open in winter, but proved successful thus she acquired a larger space, where the Pizza Shack
now stands. Around 1989, ski-resort management approached her and asked if she wished to relocate to a new retail and rental center (where The Blake
hotel now stands). She agreed. Once installed there, the business took off. She would remain in that location for more than two decades.
That same year, while guiding an Inca Trail trip, she met artist Ken O’Neil
. He followed her to Taos. Despite declaring that she wouldn’t wed again, they soon married. He encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Three years earlier, in 1986, she had fallen in love with a region of Peru capped by Ausangate
(a sacred, 17,000-foot mountain) and decided to make its weaving traditions, designs, and people her doctoral focus.
In 1997, with financial support from a Fulbright grant
, she completed her doctorate with honors in Latin American Studies, with an emphasis on anthropology and art history. “I was a nerd,” she recalls. “I was so into it! I wore a car out driving back and forth to UNM in Albuquerque.” With her doctorate, she was offered a job at UNM Taos
, and has been teaching Latin American history, anthropology, and film studies there for 20 years.
“I always thought there was a book, an exhibit, and a film possible from my doctoral topic. I wanted to give something back in a dignified way to honor the people I had studied. They don’t have a lot in terms of material things but such a rich heritage, spirit, and sense of community.”
So, methodically, with a bit of good fortune easing the way, she began to tackle these projects.
She had taken up photography to support her textiles documentation and, in 2000, she guest-curated an exhibit on Quechua textiles at the Maxwell Museum
on the UNM campus. That led to a book proposal from UNM Press, but it was going to cost a great deal and she needed to raise supplemental funds for it. She succeeded. In 2003, the book Woven Stories: Andean Textiles & Rituals
was published. It won a national award from the Society for Visual Anthropology
Soon after, a part-time resident and filmmaker in Taos Ski Valley, Tad Fettig, saw the book and told her “Let’s go there! We have to do a documentary film!” She found herself leading a crew of 13 into South America. After additional rounds of fundraising, in 2006 they released an award-winning film with editor David Aubrey of Lightningwood Pictures
of Santa Fe. This turned into a long-term professional relationship that led to additional films including several shot in Nepal and one about the Hotel St. Bernard, marking its 50th anniversary.
Heckman is “always chasing textiles,” and makes annual trips to Bali
as well as Brazil
, where she was captivated by its geodes
, quartz, amethyst and other minerals on top of its folk arts, jewelry, sculpture, and other rare, often handmade goods. She opened and ran two other shops—Crystal Mountain and Legends—for years. Today, she has narrowed that focus to Andean Software
at the new base are at the ski valley and her second shop in the town of Taos. Both are filled with one-of-a-kind arts and crafts of the world that she has carefully curated.
“I am so happy,” concludes the still-energetic Jane of all trades. “It’s been 34 years at Taos Ski Valley
and we are, literally, in the center. We are selling beautiful things that we really love and are bringing the heart and soul of people from other cultures here to share. I love it. I love this mountain. I love this place. It is the perfect complement for me to go to the Andes and then come home to Taos. It keeps me happy.”
And what is her favorite run on the Taos Ski Valley
“El Funko, because it is sort of on the edge; it’s way out there.”
For more on Andean Software and Andrea Heckman, call 575-776-2508 (Taos Ski Valley)
or 575-758-8605 (Town of Taos), or visit www.andeansoftware.com
Thank You Daniel Gibson
for the Merchants of Taos Ski Valley Series.
Thank you Sanda Pecina for your editing and supporting the Ski Valley Businesses.