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.