Sunday, August 31, 2008

Harlan's Birds

Harlan Coonsis (1958- ) is recognized worldwide as a Zuni master jewelry maker. In the early days when he collaborated with his first wife, Rolanda he did the silverwork; she did the stonework. He now collaborates with his present wife Monica. When working by himself and with Rolanda, Harlan signs his work H. R. COONSIS ZUNI. When working with Monica he uses H. M. COONSIS. His work commands high prices and includes the customary broad range of Native American jewelry offerings including pin/pendants as shown, belt buckles, rings, concho belts, and bolo ties. He is especially well known for his inlaid birds. The above 2 1/4 inch tall pieces market in the range of $250 to $400 each. Inlay includes, mother of pearl, turquoises, Acoma jet, coral, and abalone. The birds come alive with his precision etching. Harlan's birds are widely distributed for sale throughout the Southwest. The birds above all have a stylistic similarity and each is identified by script etching on their back side: Cardinal, Steller's jay, Roadrunner, and Blue jay. They are all native birds of the Zuniland.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Beyond the Jewelry: Pouch, Purse, or Bag?

For several months Sandy and I have been in search of well crafted leather Native American made purses to complement our Native Amerian Indian jewelry. Finally, on Santa Fe Indian Market weekend we found these superb creations by the small Ma-Chris tribe of Alabama. They have obvious appeal as Native American or Western wear. I understand that several versions are also popular with Harley riders.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bringing Home The Blue Ribbon

(click on image to enlarge)

As I wrote earlier, Sandy and I felt like two kids at a State Fair at the 87th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market. In fact, had you seen Sandy carrying home the blue ribbon with her happy, confident smile, you might have thought she'd just won it for a competitive mince meat pie or pickle competition. But no, the true prize belonged to the husband and wife team of Ruddell and Nancy Lanconsello of Zuni, New Mexico. Blue Ribbons for superior jewelry creations are commonplace in their lives. They've been winning them for more than a quarter of century. The ribbon pictured was awarded for the fabulous sterling silver concho link belt they entered this year. It was a thrill for us to acquire this stunning belt, and we were absolutely delighted to meet both artists for the first time at this year's show. The belt is 10 ounces, each concho is 2 inches in diameter, and the belt measures 32 1/3 inches in overall length. The belt is a product of an overlay, inlay technique. Designs are first drawn on paper then cut out in silver and placed over a base sheet of sterling. The colorful gem stones are then individually cut and inlaid with tight precision. They are then indivdiually etched to add additional depth. Appraised value of concho belt: $12,000. Blue Ribbon Thrill: well you've heard the commercials. Matching Bird Image with gemstone depictions; well that's fun too, the list includes: Blue crowned Motmot, Toco Toucan, Hyacinth Macaw, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Blue and Gold Macaw, Gould's Finch, Scarlet Macaw, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Greater Bird of Paradise, and Cock of the Rock.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Elephant Man

Sandy and I enjoyed the annual Santa Fe Indian Market this year like two young children at a State Fair. We circulated from booth to booth observing, discovering, absorbing, and establishing contacts with many Native American artists. One of the absolute highlights came with our discovery of Darrell Jumbo, the Elephant Man. I had just finished a careful overview of Dina Huntinghorses' high end, gold laden jewelry pieces; as I rounded the corner I noticed a distinctive tall, lean faced Navajo man with a prominent pony tail dressed in a top hat and tails. His pants were informal sterling silver studded shorts. Beaded conchos held dangling backward leaning feathers at both shoulders. He wore boot moccasins. I thought I was in for a treat when I heard him discussing one of his pieces called "Damn Sam." As I moved forward to listen intently, he flashed his broad smile. He said the inspiration for his comic creation "Damn Sam" was from his childhood years when he and his buddies would steal vegetables from a neighbor's farm patch and hide in his irrigation ditch to consume their purloined fresh harvest with salt and pepper garnish. The farmer never caught on and blamed the "damned rabbits" for his crop loss and so it was that rabbit Sam was one who had to endure the stinging wrath of the farmer's BB gun. On hearing this tale, I so wanted the sterling silver "Damn Sam", but the man beside me had arrived first hand and pulled out cash to seal the deal. Fortunately, Mr. Jumbo had several other creations and I chose the 18K gold nosed "Oh Dear" pin to carry home. Having noted the enthusiasm Sandy and I showed on discovering his art, Jumbo talked with us at length. I finally extended my hand in friendship as a prelude to my exist, but he appeared to ignored it. Instead, much to our delight, he stepped out of his booth and gave us both a big bear hug.

Darrell was most fortunate to have received his initial silversmithing training under Master Silversmith Norbert Pleshlaki. It was Norbert who gave him his artisan name, Elephant Man. His hallmark is an elephant symbol as shown in the image above.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Anticipating Indian Market

Every August I attend the Gallup Intertribal Ceremony jewelry exhibition in search of emerging local artists and to get a look at the winning show pieces which seem to go to the same established old masters year after year. Although definitely worth my time, the Gallup show pales in comparison to the Annual Santa Fe Indian Market where the hallmark is quality and jewelry treasures seem endless. Santa Fe Indian Market, the largest annual event in Santa Fe, has been held each August for the past 80 years. In year 1922 first prize was worth $5; this year it's worth $12,000. 1,200 artists from about 100 tribes converge in the Plaza to who show their work in over 600 booths. The outdoor event attracts an estimated 100,000 visitors to Santa Fe from all over the world. It's a great opportunity to buy directly from the artists. For retail dealers like myself, it's primarily a time to see new work and meet artists, many of them otherwise elusive. My list is growing. Near the top is JD Coriz from the nearby Santo Domingo Reservation. I've begun purchasing some of his masterwork through one of the Albuquerque wholesalers, but I have yet to meet the man. I will be taking my computer and camera equipment so I hope to be adding a few blog entries at this year's showing. Pictured here is one of JD Coriz's masterworks. Cost about $2400.