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Betsy and Ray Shaw
Creators of Home Brewed Spirits
Alto, NM
By Steppin' Out Staff

The final stop on our Art Loop Tour was at the home studios of Betsy & Ray Shaw of Alto, NM. The Shaws are an artistic and creative couple who work in entirely different mediums and have different artistic styles. Yet they share eerily similar focuses.

Betsy uses her skills with fiber to make "Spirit Dolls" -- elaborate female figures with turtle heads, tall lithe bodies, antler arms and colorful, highly detailed hand made fabric outfits. Ray's interest is in creating primitive wooden "masks" which are made from solid aspen logs that feel and in some ways look similar to some of the heads one might find on Native American totem poles. Although, Ray's masks aren't designed to resemble totem figures, and wouldn't really belong on a classic totem pole, they reminded us of those types of figures largely because they are each hand crafted from large Aspen logs.

Recently Betsy has extended her artistic interests in a new direction. In addition to spirit dolls she now also makes a series of fabric-covered and tastefully decorated wooden crosses. Not surprisingly, this new line of Christian-related products are already popular among New Mexico's many cross collectors.

The truth is Betsy and Ray's artistic interests and focuses seemed similar enough to us that when we learned they'd only lived in their new home for a year and had separately discovered their interest in their unique art forms since then, we couldn't help but wonder whether the site their home stands on might once been the mountain retreat of some powerful Native shaman, totem carver, or medicine man whose spirit still permeates the place so strongly that decades or centuries later the former resident has somehow managed to gently guide the Shaws to reinvent his ancient artforms.

Naturally, Betsy and Ray laugh at such an idea -- as they could be expected to do. Still, we'd swear we heard echos of native drums when we visited their home on the final evening of the Art Loop weekend. Then again, perhaps we just imagined the whole thing.

One thing we did notice in examining their art is that Betsy and Ray's elaborate and beautiful primitive-style artworks have a strong aura of authenticity and rightness about them that's hard to deny. In each case, their works feel so as though they leapt fully formed out of the dreams of some inspired native who had just spent several days smoking and meditating in a Kiva.

Even in our photos of their art you might feel it to some extent. Whether it was one of Ray's large wooden masks (which average around four feet in height and weigh 30 - 40 lbs) or Betsy's delightfully serene and reassuring Spirit Dolls, there's a strong sense of rightness and serenity about their art that's hard to miss.

In fact, some might consider it "spooky"... assuming, of course, you're one of those who believe in such things! We're not.

Although we enjoyed looking at their latest creations during our Art Loop visit to their home, we deliberately took no photos during our visit to the Shaw's home that day; because we already had a gallery of their works on the site. You can see photos of Betsy and Ray's inspired art in their private gallery ( here on Steppin' Out.

Please don't take our word about the quality of their art. On your next trip to Ruidoso, arrange a visit to their studio and see their work for yourself up close and personal. You won't be disappointed. They are a very likeable couple and their art is attractive and completely unique. Many art lovers have already discovered their unique styles. Don't be the last. We have a hunch you'll soon be pondering where you can fit a couple of their lovely artworks in your own home!

One thing is certain. You'll never find pieces of their art for sale at Walmart. But it's very possible you may one day find them in a museum.

For more information about Betsy and Ray Shaw's art, they can be contacted at: 505-336-7712, or email them at:

Give them Steppin' Out's Regards please!

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