Saturday, May 24, 2008

Buckle & Bolo Sets of Isabelle Simplicio

I had seen Isabelle Simplicio's work on multiple occasions in wholesale rooms, but I paid little attention to her bezel set horse head cameos until just last week when our paths crossed in the showroom of Ray's Trading Company. Isabelle in a quiet manner stepped in next to me and handed Ray the bolo / buckle set you see here. As she turned around and exited Ray said to me, "that lady was Isabelle Simplicio and here is her work." At that moment I had a flashback to one of my cherished references published in three volumes in 1975, "ZUNI, The Art and the People". I proudly left with the set along with one of her watchbands of similar design and on returning home confirmed my vague recall. The book shows her in 1975 sitting at her work bench working on the same product. The limited write-up notes that she and her husband had been making the horsehead jewelry for 15 years and "when asked, they mark their jewelry with an engraver." The husband is apparently no longer involved, but it appears little has changed. Her work is still a big market success and is still signed rather crudely with an engraver.

I have now moved her jewelry to my top 10 Indian Jewelry favorites in large part, I think, because for me it evokes action memories of the late 1950's and 1960's when Westerns ruled the cinema and as country boys we dreamed of growing up to be handsome cowboys in fancy dress complete with broad rimmed Stetsons, pearl snap buttons, tall shiny boots, big Western buckles, and colorful bolos.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Art of Helen and Lincoln Zunie

For months I've wanted to feature the mosaic inlay jewelry of Helen and Lincoln. This past week I finally rounded up enough of their gemstone horse creations to shoot a composite image. Their work has been time tested since at least the early 1970's and no Zuni collection can be considered complete without at least a sampling of their work. Their hallmark "HL Zunie", stands for both Helen and Lincoln. Sadly, Lincoln carries on with the work alone now that Helen is deceased. Like Effie's Serpent jewelry creations, Helen and Lincoln's horse bolos, buckles, and pendant/pins will endure as highly valued art creations until the end of time as we know it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Navajo Inlay Pocket Knives Part II

The knives pictured here are another manifestation of my aforementioned conversation with Eddie of the East Mountain Inlay Cutlery Co. The stones used in these knives are again stabilized. The wood is packa. The core knives are manufactured by Bear & Sons cutlery. Located in Jacksonville, Florida, they have a long history of making high quality knives. The knives shown are made of 420 carbon stainless steel, bolsters are made of nickle silver and each one is inscribed Navajo on the bolster. These knives are now being inlaid in Gallup by the dozens. Retail cost is around $65.

Navajo Inlay Pocket Knives / Part I

A few weeks ago the owner of the recently formed EMI Inlay Cutlery Company asked me for some advice in arranging for Native American knife handle inlay work. Most of the current products on the market are imports. The knife pictured here is a high end pocket knife born of our discussion and collaboration. The inlay was done by a Navajo inlayer at Sunrise Indian Jewelry in Gallup. The stones are enhanced and stablized to resist chipping. The knife itself is a Boker-Tree made in Soligen, Germany. The company was founded in the late 17th century and has since been known world wide for making knives of the highest quality carbon steel. Unlike stainless steel, these blades need to be periodically oiled, but they yield a sharper blade. The bolsters are of nickel-silver.