Marfa used to be the place you’d go to see everything related to the minimalist artist Donald Judd – the Chinati Foundation (a museum he founded 30 years ago on an old military base), as well as his home and studio – and not much else. My, how things have changed. The 12 years since I first started visiting this southwest Texas town with a population around 1,800 people have brought galleries, restaurants, hotels (including one where the “rooms” are Airstream trailers and yurts), a piece of performance art that looks like a Prada boutique (it’s in the nearby town of Valentine) and a bunch of actual stores that are well worth a browse, selling clothing, jewellery, home furnishings and the like with a distinct desert vibe.
Mano Mercantile is one of the newer shops in town. It is owned by Beau Buck and Gabrielle Gamarello, a couple who previously lived in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco before moving to Marfa. Gamarello worked in fashion, Buck worked in art museums, and now they live above the shop and make many of the items of boho-chic western Americana sold in it. Some items (scarves, denim) are displayed on an old army cot; others – turquoise and silver jewellery – are in vintage cases, while clothing hangs from minimalist racks suspended from the ceiling (second picture). Until recently, in one corner sat a sculptural teepee (sold for $2,500, third picture) that Buck handwove from jute; he also makes the quirky-cool, art-like Jack Rabbits (from $425, example in first picture) out of scavenged fabrics, leather cut from boots, antique indigo, vintage hides and tattered Navajo rugs.
Other items of note include the earthy ceramics by Micah Gibson (mugs from $56), denim shirts with Japanese embroidery ($248) and huge California-inspired woven wall hangings (from $548) by Dutch artist Matthias de Vogel. I left with a necklace ($48) made from a sterling-silver guitar pick set with a piece of turquoise, as well as another of leather strung with turquoise-coloured beads ($28) – and I’ll be returning at the end of summer to buy some more as gifts. And for those not headed to this most intriguing of desert destinations anytime soon, some of the items are available to buy online.