Friday, April 30, 2010

Blustery Snow Day in Gallup

As I was driving to pickup some jewelry today, I noticed the sign pictured bathed in a very pleasant, soft and beautiful light, but I passed by before I decided to photograph. I decided to delay an image capture for my trip back which was to be quick, but an hour later the great light had vanished and a blustery spring snow storm storm was was well underway. I pushed my pickup truck into the mud beside the highway to avoid traffic and captured the quick shot above as the snow blew into my face and compromised my lens.

I rarely go to Richardson's but it is a tourist delight. Still a little shy of centennial celebration time, it is one of the oldest trading companies in the region. It is the best place in town to see Navajo rugs, and they deal in most everything else involving Native Americans art from this region of the country. Richardson's is a classic, be sure to visit when you come to our town.

I'm hoping for better weather tomorrow. I am headed to the puebl0 of Zuni for an overnight visit. I hope to catch the dance celebrations they plan for tomorrow tonight. Stay tuned.

Donovan Skeets

(click for larger image)

When I first met Donovan Skeets he was carrying a small basket of two dozen unfinished silver bracelets. They were bezel empty and as black as night still waiting to be set with quality stone and shined up to mirror brillance. Donovan got his start in the jewelry work room at Desert Indian Traders here in Gallup. As a very young man his entry job was as a silver buffer. He watched between buffing sessions and then he began practicing product construction with small silver pieces. He carefully observed and learned the techniques of the silver men like Gilbert Tom and Augustine Largo who shared the studio. Today he considers himself an old style specialist. The jewelry artists whose work he most admires include the late Harry Morgan and Harry's son Greg Pat. The folks at the shop told me that Donovan, now a mature silversmith, still likes to buff. The necklace/earring set above is set with Turquoise mountain turquoise from the Kingman mine area of Arizona. Price $399.

Wilford Begay's Sterling Kachina

This half-pound, 11 inch Eagle dancer by Navajo Wilford Begay is a noteworthy treasure. I wanted it for my own small collection of kachinas, but I've so far managed to keep my wallet in my pocket. Sammy at Desert Indian Traders allowed me to take it to my photography studio today. I returned the glistening master work back a few minutes ago so it is once again on the shelf for show and eventual sale. Price $2,600.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gallup's Annual Inter-Tribal Ceremony 2010

click for detail

On my way about Gallup today, it occurred to me that I had written up the piece on the Santa Fe Indian Market, but failed to even think of encouraging my blog readers to consider attending the 89th Gallup Annual Inter-Tribal Ceremony. I intended to stop by the Chamber of Commerce to see if there were any promotional materials, such as postcards or the annual poster was available for distribution, but minor distractions led me to forget to check. I felt a bit down this evening having a time-sensitive subject without an image until I remembered the picture above which I shot for the Joe Viesti & Associates stock files just a few months ago. Wow, I believe this image of a large mural on one of Gallup's downtown building-side makes a great promotional piece. Besides its brillant, full color beauty, I appreciate the accuracy and comprehensive detail in portraying the arts we so enjoy here in Gallup. This year's ceremony will be held August 11-15. Now is the time to reserve a room since a single day here is just not enough for the full experience and lodging choices outside of Gallup are very distant even by our vast Western standards. I might add that one of my all time favorite visual memories is from 1980, it was the Zuni High School band marching in the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremony Parade. Their decorative jewelry, most silver, was amazing and unforgettable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alfred Martinez

Beautiful, just beautiful. This dazzling sterling silver bracelet set with coveted number 8 turquoise was forged at the workbench of Alfred Martinez. Uncle Augustino Largo taught him how to work silver when he was still a kid. Alfred's own personal favorite smith is Calvin Mariano, his older brother, who works beside him making similarly beautiful pieces. Most any day they can both be found producing fine classical style silver products in the workroom of Desert Indian Traders here in Gallup. I asked Alfred what silversmith he most admires 2nd to his brother. He said that would be Robert Kelly. Alfred is a quiet Navajo man who is quick to flash a broad, friendly smile. He told me he most enjoys dabbling in car mechanics when he's not busy working silver. This lifetime treasure bracelet is very reasonably priced at $399.

2010 Santa Fe Indian Market

Santa Fe's biggest yearly event will be held on the Plaza August 21 and 22 of this year. The Santa Fe Indian Market is recognized as the world's most prestigous Indian arts event; it has been an annual event since 1922. Approximately 1200 Native American from 100 different tribes participate. The event is centered on the Plaza but the approximately 600 booths spill out on the side streets in all directions available for expansion. It is a great place to meet many of the famous artists. You will see the best in jewelry, kachina, rugs, baskets, and more.

If you plan to go better reserve a room now. The town sells out. I think the next best place for lodging is in Bernalillo about 35 miles south. Albuquerque is located another 10 miles down the road from Bernalillo.

I came home Sunday and began my preparation for this year's market by sketching the bear head. Sandy added the bear paw bolo. I plan to wear my white Stetson and the T-shirt as shown. The back says, "Hi, I am Wilford." If you see me there, please introduce yourself.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Flower and Blanket

Indian Blankets are perinneal wildflowers scientifically labelled Gallardia. They pop up each Spring throughout this country. The name, Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket Flower is derived from the color arrangement of its component hues commonly found in the historic Indian trade blanket. At the turn of the 20th century, the Oregon based Pendleton Mills started producing striking woolen blankets based on designs of the nearby Umatilla and Cayuse tribes. Today Pendleton Indian Blankets are very popular with Indians of the Southwest and commonly marketed in many of our area trading posts. Their popularity has never waned. The Pendleton company now regularly introduces commemorative blankets such the one shown above that I discovered on a recent jewelry buying trip. The most memorable is the Chief Joseph Blanket (I've bought a dozen or more as gifts over the past twenty years) was first marketed in the 1920's and is still in production. It was designed to celebrate the heroism of Chief Joseph whose profound words on surrender are among the most poignant in the annals of recorded history, "...we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

If you are ever in Gallup consider stopping by the Ellis Tanner Trading Company for a brand new or an old pawn Chief Joseph Pendelton Blanket. While you are there you may want to purchase a piece of Navajo or Zuni jewelry and chow down on some mutton and fry bread. If you want more, ask the butcher for a fresh leg of lamb to carry home.

(the insets above show the flower described and the full Tamaya blanket)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Zuni Wolves by a Son of Masters

As noted in the previous blog, I went out in search of a piece of one of the Zuni masters from the class of '75, '76, or '77, but I found myself completely snagged once again by the expert work and appealing animal subject of a son of two of those masters, Dennis and Nancy Edaakie. This spectacular bolo/ western buckle set is finely crafted in highly reflective sterling silver with inlayed stones which include abalone, mother of pearl, acoma jet, coral, and turquoise. Price $1200 for the set. Please click on image for better detail.

I made reservations to stay next weekend at the Inn at Holona, a B&B which is the only place for guests to stay at the Zuni Pueblo. I hope to return with an abundance of historical facts, a few choice photos, and much to blog about.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Addicted to Kachina

After writing up the previous blog, I went in search of a new name brand piece of Zuni jewelry to feature. I found a found a fine bolo buckle set to write about, then on my way out of the wholesale showroom I caught a glimpse of this version of Mogwu, the Great Horned Owl Katchina, a constant favorite of Hopi kachina carvers. These fine warring owls often appear in mixed kachina dances and serve to discipline the clowns who can get outrageously out of control. I am concerned that I am falling into addiction once again with these masterful carvings of cottonwood root. Hopi Kachina's begin at around $200. The elaborate intricately carved large blue ribbon winners command prices often in excess of $10,000. This guy was marked $1000. I am tempted to start buying them for retail sale, but I am concerned about their fragility on shipping. When you see a Kachina take note of the jewelry they wear. This owl is wearing four turquoise items. It may be hard to find Hopi jewelry for sale in Gallup, but Hopi Ceremonial Kachina carvings are plentiful.

Zuni Master Jewelry Artisans of '75, '76, and 1977

I owe a debt of gratitude to Ed and Barabara Bell for their work in producing these three historic volumes that show the masterful artisans of Zuni as they were more than 30 years ago. The first volume was published in 1975 the next two in successive years. The Bells dedicated volume 1 to "the people of Zuni to show our apprecation of their gracious human qualities and the beauty of their workmanship." These books can rarely be found on the used market, but most Native American jewelry stores in Gallup have them readily available for quick reference. Many a Zuni jewelry offering is considered to be enhanced if the craftsman is "in the book." In most cases the jewelry makers in these volumes, often both husband and wife of a team, are shown in portrait and their skill mainfestly revealed by well done color photographs of representative samples of their creations. Famous surnames represented include Bowekaty, Cellicion, Gasper, Haloo, Kallesteqa, Natachu, Quam, Weebothee, Zunie, Pinto, Waatsa, Leekity, Bowannie, Panteah, Lonjose, Calavaza, and many more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Little Sterling Silver Rabbit

This little sandcast rabbit pendant is the only piece of its kind I've ever seen on Hopi. All the other work I've seen in Hopi Land is finely finished. So little jackrabbit is a curiousity to me. I plan to keep it as such so it will not be going to market.

A Glimpse of History: The Gallup Indian Jewelry Co.

The cover and inside double page shown above are from a company now long gone from Gallup. The catalog is not dated, but I think it is from the 1950's. The introductory paragraphs read:

"In 1865, when the Indians first began to make Indian Jewelry, the Charles Ilfeld Company was founded. This pioneer firm is the parent organization of the Gallup Indian Jewelry Company. Their reputation for fine quality quality and high standards is illustrated and amplified by these outstanding lines of jewelry and other Indian creations from Gallup, The Indian Capital of the World.

Since the days of the Spanish Conquistadores, the Indian silversmith has wrought the symbols of his customs on Silver Jewelry and other forms of art.

Today, due to his unique skill, the American Indian is entirely self supporting"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nelson Morgan Sterling Kachinas

Navajo Nelson Morgan has been making jewelry for a long while, but his jewelry is a recent discovery for me. He specializes in kachinas of silver. His well crafted work makse for worthy collectibles and showpieces and all are very reasonably priced. This particular jewel would be the talk of the table at most any tea party back in England. I also like the wear options he has built into this gem. The custom necklace solid and link chain attached is easily removed so it can be replaced on another chain; it can also be worn as a pendant; however, I think the ideal display is as a neck & upper torso adornment, at that tea party of course. Price $349

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wilford's Snake

Snakes are rarely, if ever, represented in Navajo jewelry. Effie Calavaza, a Zuni woman, is famous for her signature snake jewelry, but they are not commonly portrayed. The Hopi people on the other hand treat the snakes with reverence. Theodore Roosevelt,"a former great chief at Washington" as he referred to himself, attended their snake dances about a century ago. He wrote, "the snakes, brothers of men, as all living things in the Hopi creed, are besought to tell beings of the underworld man's need of last all the snakes were in the hands of the dancers. Then all were thrown at the foot of the natural stone pillar, and immediately, with a yell, the dancers leaped in, seized, each of them, several snakes, and rushed away, east, west, north, and south, dashing over the edge of the cliff and jumping like goats down the precipitous trails. At the foot of the cliff, or on the plain, they dropped the snakes, and then returned to purify themselves by drinking and washing from pails of dark sacred water—medicine water—brought by the women. It was a strange and most interesting ceremony all through...I can understand the snakes being soothed and quieted by the matter-of-fact calm and fearlessness of the priests for most of the time; but why the rattlers were not all maddened by the treatment they received at the washing in the kiva, and again when thrown on the dance rock, I cannot understand."

I nearly passed on buying the bolo above, that is until I began to think how nice it would be to wear on my own, especially outside the bounds of Navajo Country. Charleston Lewis was the artist responsible for creating this rattlesnake bolo. I am sure to enjoy wearing it for years to come.

You can get a glimpse of Teddy, a few live ceremonial serpents, and some Kachina dancers at the a 1913 snake dance in this film clip from the Library of Congress:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Man in the Maze in Hopi Land

A Hopi jewelry seller told me this past weekend that the Hopi people have an affinity for the man in the maze symbol in large part because they are linguistically related to the Tohono O'Odam and Pima of southern Arizona. The symbol is shared by a number of Native American tribes. The maze is very commonly woven into baskets, inlaid in silver, and painted on pottery. My son Cheves, who was born on the Tohono O'Odam reservation, had the symbol tattooed on his right forearm when he was still a teenager. The central figure of the man in the maze is called I'itoi or I'ithi. He is said to have led the Tohono O'Odam ancesters, the Hohokam, from the center of the earth and now resides in a cave just below the peak of the Baboquivari mountain. I once climbed to the top of that mountain and I felt much like a man in a maze on my descent in the dark. I never saw I'ithi's lair and at that time did not know I was supposed to leave him a gift.

The silver overlay work in this bracelet is impressively fine. The ram and headdress wearing corn maiden kachina figures make this a remarkable conversation piece. Also note the silversmith's--Eddison Wadsworth Soohafya (corn clan)--simplistic Lakota hallmark. Price $649.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Gold and Silver of Watson Honanie

Watson Honanie who resides in the 2nd Hopi Mesa Village of Shungopavi began his career as a gold and silver smith in 1973. He was one of the first Native Americans to combine mixed gold and silver technique as pictured here in this elegant shadowbox style pendant featuring the gold Eagle Kachina Dancer. His hallmark is the bear paw. This 2 1/4 inch diameter show piece is priced at $1450.

Hopi Warrior Mouse

One of the great joys of our wholesale buying trips on the Hopi Reservatoin is the chance to pick up brilliant new Kachinas. A knowledgble merchant informed me that the Warrior Mouse Kachina, popular with collectors around the world, is not a true Kachina because he does not appear in real life Hopi ceremonies. Nonetheless, the Warrior Mouse is an important Hopi figure especially popular with the children. The story of this hero mouse is said to have originated in the 2nd Mesa village of Misongnovi. The short story version is that Warrior Mouse saved the village from relentless predatory chicken kills of a ever hungry Hawk after all other efforts by the village people had failed. The little mouse killed the this bird of prey by cleverly arranging a trap that led to the Hawk impaling himself on Warrior Mouse's sharp spear. It is hard to see in these two images but Warrior Mouse is wearning a Ketoh (bow guard) on his left wrist and a turquoise bracelet on his right. I bought this piece, which eventually go to my Grandson Bodhi (now just 2.5 weeks old), directly from the artist. I featured a sterling silver pendant version of the Warrior Mouse in this blog of 1/19/2008.

Cody's Gold & Silver Storyteller Bolos

Cody Hunter's multi-dimensional silver overlay silver work is the best I have ever seen. His superior work is scare and very hard to find. I have tried without success to contact him to buy directly. I do not blame him for being so elusive for even in our current deep recession, I image he has more demand than he can fulfill. His works speaks for itself. The detail in the 4 layers of silver overlay is stunning. Note the individuals sitting at the fire in the outdoor ramada in the detail inset. In the bottom piece you can see the silversmith at work in the covered area next to his traditional Navajo hogan. The bottom bolo shows its only 14K gold radiance as the glowing sun. The 14K gold in the top piece is distributed throughout on the petroglyphic depictions. These pieces are a treasure hunter's delight. The last piece I had by Cody was a similarly portrayed Western belt buckle. I was saddened when it sold. I plan to test drive at least of the bolos above. Although Cody's work is expensive by Native American jewelry standards, I think it is relatively cheap given its museum quality and one-of-a-kind handcraft dazzle. The top bolo carries a price tag of $1995, the bottom piece $1399. For impression neck wear, forget your very vulnerable cloth ties that can be slayed with a mere errant drop of mustard. Click or even double click on the image above for better detail.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jewelry Bedecked Hopi Frog Kachina Croaks "Let it Rain"

Sandy and I just returned from a most enjoyable buying trip on the Hopi Reservation. Our chest is now full of Hopi inventory jewels. I will feature many on this blog. We really do not deal in Kachinas, but it is difficult to go Hopi without returning with at least one or two. Although the Zuni and Navajo also carve Kachinas, the Hopi are the uncontested masters. Their Kachina are all carved from the root of the cottonwood tree which can be found on the reservation in the washes. Today, I had the joy of meeting up with a cottonwood root vendor and I bought a 4 foot length of the lightweight root from him for $20. The surrounding Hopi craftsmen began teasing me about what Kachina I would extract from my piece of wood. Perhaps I should feel some ecological remorse, I have plans to hang it on the wall to drap a special edition Pendleton woolen Tamaya Indian blanket. I also bought another Kachina directly from a Hopi carver for my new Grandson Bodhi to eventually inherit. I may put his mouse warrior up in a few days, but I'd like to sizzle a few pieces of Hopi master jewels herein before I do that.

The frog kachina (Paqua in Hopi) dances at ceremonials to bring rain to the parched Hopi land. This particular Kachina was carved by Wilson Huma of the Hopi Roadrunner Clan. He lives in the village of Sichomovi on 1st Mesa.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Welcome to Gallup's Zia Motel

Today I went in search of a piece of jewelry by an artist whose work I'd not seen. I located a representative sample of his good work which I fully intended to blog this afternoon even though I came up shy on his biographical information. Hunger struck as I was driving home along old Route 66 so I ducked into Taco Bell for a quick bean burrito. As I was waiting for my order I saw the above image across the street. I thought it very typical of main street Gallup and decided to make it the subject of my blog entry for today. Gallup is loaded with motel rooms. An influx of reservation dwelling Native Americans swell the population to double or triple size most weekends. Route 66 is lined with similar lodging. The familiar corporate chain facilities are heavily weighted on the ends of our elongated town. Old motels rooms near the center of Gallup typically rent for between 24 and 3o dollars a night. On any given day, I image you can find 10 to 30% of the rooms occupied with Native American involved in jewelry making. You can get a room at the Zia as pictured here for $30 a night or $180 per week, tax is included. Just a couple of blocks away on the Taco Bell side of the street you will find the El Rancho Hotel built in 1937. From the 30's to the 50's it served as a temporary home for many stellar Hollywood actors and as headquarters for dozens of Western film productions. El Rancho's lengthy famous guest list includes notables like John Wayne, Jane Wyman, Jackie Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Spencer Tracy. I'll have to check to see if my personal old Western favorite, Richard Boone, best known for his role as Paladin, was ever a guest there. I do know that my fine barber's mother used to wait on Mr. Boone at the Eagle Cafe which is still in operation here. One morning he handed her a "Have Gun Will Travel" business card.

Please click on the image above for more pictorial detail. The woman in the image is dressed in fairly realistic traditional manner, but I've never seen an area Native American male outfitted as above and certainly never with an erect solitary head feather. Nonethess, I do think the cartoonish duo convey a fuzzy-warm welcome to Gallup, the Indian Jewelry Capital of the World.

Update: I checked when Sandy and I dined at the historic El Rancho Hotel in Gallup for lunch. Richard Boone aka Paladin never registered there. Perhaps he stayed at the Zia when in town.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dan Jackson's Master Rug Design Jewelry

Dan Jackson's father was a master silversmith, his mother a rug weaver. Dan is widely known for his rug pattern based jewelry which always stands apart as distinguished and prize-winning. I've only met him on one occasion, that was a couple of years ago at the Santa Fe Indian Market. I really enjoyed hearing the story about the time he and wife attended a rodeo. She was all dressed up in Dan's radiantly fine jewelry. A lady from New England approached her and proffered a large bundle of cash for the complete set of jewelry for an on the spot immediate exchange. She graciously accepted. No one has told me the exact amount that changed hands that day; the sum probably grows with each telling of the story. Dan's exquisite silver work is not cheap. This Ganado rug style hatband carries a price tag of $1250.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kachina Clowns

It's been a while since Nancy and Ruddell Laconsello stopped by our house for coffee and to show us their latest pieces. Sandy just happened to find this beautiful bolo, buckle set at Ray's Trading Company here in Gallup a few days ago. I particularly like this set because kachina clowns are boisterous, satirical, watermelon-loving gluttons who love to act with laughter-provoking comic spin in real life Hopi and Zuni ceremonial festivities; and as always, Laconsello work is always highly collectible as jewelry art. I look forward to going to Hopi Reservation this weekend on a major buying trip. Seems that Kachina dances are ongoing every time I visit, but I've not had a chance to attend in the past few years. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Navajo Cosmic Kokopelli Reversible Pendant

Today upon our return from the New Mexico Jemez Mountains where we went to visit our week old Grandson, Bodhi Azure, Sandy and I stopped by Sunrise Indian Jewelry. We discovered Solomon and his wife preparing some freshly minted Native American jewelry for a dealer-only formal showing at the Oasis gift show at the Albuquerque Convention Center this coming weekend. This exquiste pendant caught my attention immediately. Note the flute playing Kokopelli perched on the ledge of sandstone that dominates the scenic reservation lands of the Navajo. The moon, stars and streaking comet accentuate the night. This is a collaborative piece. The silver is Calvin Begay's design, but the real artisan who deserves great credit is a heretofore little known inlay Navajo artist, John Duboise whom I've not yet met. The stones include black jet, lab opal, and jasper. This unique hand-crafted piece is a definite candidate for my best find of the year. Note this dimunitive masterwork measuring 2 inches from bale to the 3/4 inch base appears perfect; the image here shows some slight glare. Price $599.