Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Grand Hopi Buying Trip

I'm fond of saying that Hopi jewelry is good by definition. Since the middle ages they have survived in their hostile high desert land that would have decimated other civilizations in short order. I believe their well honed survival skills have lead in part to a discipline that is manifest in the near perfection one sees so consistently in their art, especially their jewelry and Kachinas. The Hopi's are vastly outnumbered by their Navajo brethern thus their products are quite limited when judged by comparison. I'm surprised products we list do not sell as briskly as I would expect given their consistent excellence of quality and rather scant supply. Perhaps it is only a few traders like me, collectors, and the Japanese that have really discovered Hopi jewelry. Even though we have a good supply of Hopi products on hand, I wanted to get in another day of shopping so Sandy and I took off early this morning under clear skies for a day trip to Hopi. We had no trouble finding additional products to market and intereacting with Hopi artisans was once again delightful. Our buying was compete in short order so we decided to stop at the Hopi Cultural Center for some blue corn fry bread based tacos and on exit encountered Kachina maker Lawrence Mahle of Polacca on 1st Mesa. We do not deal in Kachinas for a variety of reasons the two principal ones being that the jewelry business keeps us busy and shipping of Kachinas is not something we want to do. Nonetheless on seeing Mr. Mahle with his well made products, along with his young wife and child, I wanted to support his art and so bought the Healer Bear Kachina you see pictured. He explained the role of the healer bear whose magic healing is derived and delivered from juniper root he gives to chew on. He is also said to answer prayers and Mr. Mahle suggested that we try directing some of our own prayers to the Bear. I walked away feeling quite good about my acquisition of the bear. I had taken only a couple of steps in toward my car when Calvin Pavetea, a Hopi also from Polacca, pulled up in his pickup truck to ask me through his open window to take a look at his butterfly Kachina that he was offering for sale. When he quoted his price, I informed I had just depleted my cash reserves on the Bear. He agreed to take a check. Meanwhile, he explained to Sandy the construction and meaning of our new Butterfly Kachina then he pulled a piece of raw cottonwood root to show her. Hopi Kachinas are widely acknowedged as the best and their carving depends on a source of cottonwood root no longer available on their reservation land. It was just a wondeful day once again out here in the West, I even picked up a piece of jewelry that will be a candidate for find of the year. Stayed tuned for a look at Navajo Cody Hunter's storyteller belt buckle.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Splendid Red Bear Coral Choker

Sandy loves the occsional call from Ruddell Laconsello announcing that he has another ‘show stopper’, one of a kind jewelry piece that he will complete in the next few hours; he then invariably follows, "Will Wilford be interested in it?" I am of course always interested in the Laconsello's work which I regard as the creme' de la creme' of American Indian Jewely. I am particularly interested in unique pieces, one-of-a-kind treasures such as this coral bear choker. It doesn't take long for Ruddel to drive up from Zuni and knock on the door with a satisified artist grin on his face and prize in hand. If you've followed this blog you will recall we bought the couple's prize winning concho belt at this year's Santa Fe Market. Even at $10,000 it did not rest on our inventory shelf longer than a week. The Red Bear Coral Choker master work is only 16” in length, a nice choker size, with the center inlay pendant flanked by two side pieces. Ruddell noted that the design also has a Rococco style embellishment in the clouds and water above and below the bear. The bear's image began with the eye, then silver was laid in for the ‘heartline’ (with red arrow point). The bear was then completed with coordinated shades of red coral pieces. To complete the piece, he used beads which are handmade and fluted. The clasp is the final detail which cleverly compliments the rest of the choker. The large hook and eye clasp each have a heart motif.
We are proud to have acquired this masterwork for sale. Cost $849.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Claudia Peina

Claudia Peina is a highly celebrated Zuni fetish carver whose finsihed work is quickly absorbed by collectors worldwide. Her masterworks are generally too large to be incorporated into wearable jewelry. The Zuni Maiden shown here stands just over 5 1/2 inches tall. It is carved from antler and inlaid with turquoise, coral, and jet. Note the maiden's coral necklace. Cost: $389.