Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Navajo Portrait Pendant 5

Silver Design by Calvin Begay, Inlay Art by Norman Duboise, circa 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Navajo Portrait Pendant 4

This impressive portrait profile pendant depicts the head of a Navajo man dressed in ceremonial coyote costume, a practice still widely observed among the modern Navajo.  The pelt riggings complete with coyote tails are often pawned when not needed then retrieved periodically for ceremonial use.   The piece shown above is stamped "Calvin Begay" and "J Duboise" for John Duboise, the brother of the very accomplished micro-inlayer Norman Duboise who actually designed and placed the natural stone and tiny silver cuttings to create this unique work.    The pendants from this portrait series represent some of the best pieces of Indian Jewelry I have ever seen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Navajo Portrait Pendant 3

Reversible pendant by in-layer Norman Duboise with silver design by Calvin Begay, circa 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Navajo Portrait Pendant 2

Reversible pendant by in-layer Norman Duboise with silver design by Calvin Begay, circa 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Monument Valley Inspired Jewelry

Last month Sunrise Indian Jewelry of Gallup, New Mexico asked me to design a promotional postcard for them featuring these freshly minted micro-inlay bracelets inspired by the scenic views of the Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border.    This spectacular real estate is part of the Navajo Reservations land and undoubtedly one of the world's most inspiring landscapes. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Zuni Pueblo Pottery

Contemporary Lizard Applique Zuni Pot by Deldrick & Lorenda Cellicion
The Zuni pueblo is the largest of the 19 pueblos surviving pueblos of New Mexico, it is also the most remote and isolated.   Zuni pottery production which dates back for centuries faded to near extinction by the 1950's as it was replaced by a robust cottage industry of jewelry inlay and fetish carving which today are the predominate products created by tribal members.   The resurgence of the pottery tradition among the Zuni was ushered in as a result of pottery classes introduced at the Zuni High School in the 1960s.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Micaceous Pots by George Garcia

Glittery flecks of mica are found in many natural clay deposits in the Rio Grande region of Northern New Mexico.    This sparkling clay has been used by Native Americans of the region as far back as 1300 AD.  When properly cured,  mica vessels can be used for cooking, but are now more commonly collected as decor items readily recognized by their distinctive sheen.  George Gonzales, a Native American potter from Northern New Mexico,  says of his work,  "With my hands I take my Mother Earth and give her shape. The heat from my Father, the sun, gives her life and the rainbow of my New Mexico sunset gives color to her child. Every piece I make is a piece not taken away but placed in my life and with the blessing of the Great Spirit I live.  The clay tells you what it wants you to do with it.You create the shape with each coil. It is more personal when you make a pot that can sit on its own without any decoration. Then you have something."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Navajo Portrait Pendant 1

Double Sided Navajo Pendant by Norman Duboise and Calvin Begay
A few months ago I was approached and asked to submit a donation proposal to the National Museum of the American Indian section of the Smithsonian Institute.    I cheerfully accepted the job after viewing the six magnificent pendants the donor had commissioned.  All the pendants are a collaborative product of two Navajo artists: silversmith Calvin Begay who is widely known; the other artist, Norman Duboise, is a rather obscure master inlayer who lives out on the immense Navajo Reservation in an area close to the New Mexico-Arizona border where he enjoys tending to livestock and living in the traditional Navajo way.   His work in the jewelry business began at age 14 when he was hired by Frank Yellowhorse as a buffer.   Neither artist had previously been represented in the Smithsonian collection, a point that heightened my interest.

I recommended that all six of the pendants be submitted for review, but that the selection be limited to one choice.    The whole process lasted about 4 months beyond the time I submitted a written proposal along with digital photographs.    Finally, the curatorial committee selected one of the pendants and forwarded their recommendation to the museum director who made the final approval.

I was a bit surprised last week when the donor asked me to represent the sale of the five remaining brilliant Navajo masterworks.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Roadside Navajo Jewelry

Roadside stands are common in tourist popular scenic areas of the Navajo Reservation.   This one in Monument Valley caught my attention this week.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Santa Fe Spanish Market

Neuvomexicano art, deeply rooted in the Spanish Colonial years of New Mexico of the late 14th century, is impressively showcased at the annual Spanish Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico.    Although some of the art work is secular, the religious expression is highly dominate and most often represented by carved bultos (statues of saints), wooden crucifixes, reredoses (altar screens), retablos (paintings), and various tin and metal creations.

Sandy and I attended the impressive annual market this weekend.  The half-gallon micaceous bean cooking pot shown below by Vilis and Brenda from the Dragon Star Studio in El Cerro Mission, New Mexico is one of the items we brought back.     Sandy initiated it on the stove top last night by cooking up a batch of saffron accented white rice.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Norman Red Star, “Wi-Cahpe-Luza”, Swift Star of the Souix tribe specializes in decorating traditional Santa Clara pottery with sgraffito etchings. He often adds accents of turquoise. He signs his pieces with distinction as illustrated below: Wi-Cahpe-Luza, Red Star, followed by a shield symbol, and finally with his census number. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Johnson Duboise - Navajo Inlay Artist

This pendant is the type of treasure I love to find.  It gives me a picture opportunity to promote an unknown or scarcely known artist of great merit.   Jewelry aficionados, especially upon knowing that the work is of exclusive Navajo origin, will likely recognize the silver craft design of excellence by Calvin Begay.    Although the back of the piece along with the silver casing is attractive, the real appeal is the micro-inlay of jasper, mother of pearl, lab opal, Acoma jet, and tiny bits of round sterling wire slivers.    The whole pendant measures 1 7/8 inches in length.  The small bale is not roomy enough in its interior dimension for the artist's imprint so it is not a hallmarked work; nonetheless, the collaborative piece is a product of Sunrise Indian Jewelry in Gallup, New Mexico which is, I believe, the crème de la crème of the Native American jewelry manufacturing houses that encourage, train, and bring artists together.    Authentic Native American art is all too often copied and sold as a markedly inferior product, so it is worthwhile to inquire about provenance when considering a purchase.   The pendant above is worth about $500.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Berleen Estevan Acoma Pottery

Berleen Estevan's Grandmother taught her the art of traditional pottery making as a child.   She, like many pottery artisans of the Acoma Pueblo, works with both traditionally hand coiled pots and with greenware.   The ceramic greenware pot illustrated above shows her characteristic elaborate and detailed painting style.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Paul Livingston - Navajo Coin Jewelry

I recently spotted the vintage coin necklace and earring set featured in the poster above in a Santa Fe store and asked to take it for promotion.   Necklaces made from sterling silver and old US coins are now difficult to find, but they are prized by collectors as heritage work of enduring value.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Promoting New Mexico

I have obviously started a new project of designing posters promoting not only artists, but also the Southwest   USA with emphasis on my home state of New Mexico.   A few years ago I was a contributing photographer for the New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs and New Mexico Magazine.  Perhaps, I'll start anew.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Carmel Lewis Poster

I photographed the pot and designed the poster above this morning.  I am enjoying promoting artists through the language of posters.   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pottery by Westly Begay

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kokochile de Santa Fe

Last week the owner of Kokochile de Santa Fe, a most interesting indoor-outdoor shop, loaned me the original artwork to create the poster above.    In addition to a wide selection of Indian art, the store sells Mata Ortiz pottery and a number of products from Mexico.   This well known store is located just around the corner of Santa Fe's central plaza across the street from the landmark LaFonda Hotel.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Penfield Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico

Last week I was inspired to create this poster highlighting the sign attached to the outside front adobe wall of the Penfield Gallery which houses three rooms of Native American art for sale.    Not only is the small gallery known for its excellent contents, it is rich in history that stretches back to the 19th century frontier days of the West.  A visit to this noteworthy gallery is reason enough to travel to Albuquerque's historic Old Town district, but if  you cannot go in person,  you can enjoy browsing their website.   

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Arte de Placitas

Today on our way back from a forest picnic ground in Cibola National Forest, Sandy and I stopped at the Arte de Placitas gallery.  They carry an assortment of notable work from regional artists and a modest, but excellent Mata Ortiz pottery collection for sale.    This rural gallery, only five miles off of Interstate 25 on the way to Santa Fe, is well worth visiting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Poster Celebrating the Work of Olivia Dominguez Renteria

I recently designed this poster which is now available for order here.   I plan to send one to Ms. Renteria as soon as I receive her contact information.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Small Black on Black Mata Ortiz Pot by RRR

Small Black on Black Mata Ortiz Pot by RRR
This two inch pot by Reydesel Reyes Roque (RRR) is an exemplary piece of Mata Ortiz pottery, and an excellent subject for a black and white art print.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mata Ortiz Dolphin Pot by Karen Camacho

Mata Ortiz Dolphin Pot by Karen Camacho, circa 2011

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mata Ortiz Butterfly Motif Pot by Lupita Mora

Mata Ortiz Sgraffito Butterfly Motif  Pot by Lupita Mora

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mata Ortiz Sgraffito Rabbit Seed Pot by Alex Ortega

Mata Ortiz Sgraffito Rabbit Seed Pot by Alex Ortega

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sgraffito Javelina / Agave Blossom Motif Pot

Javelina - Agave Blossom Motif Pot by Abel Mora
This unique small pot was scratched to create a rich duo tone decorative effect by potter Abel Mora of Mata Ortiz.  The desert nature design is made up of flying birds, 8 Chihuahuan desert javelinas, rocks, cactus, and bloomed agave plants with the flowering depicted by the scalloped opening to the pot.    Note, that the top and bottom represent similar, but different scenes. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

In and Out Jemez Pueblo Pot Lizards

Traditional Lizard Motif Pot by Jemez Pueblo Potter Lawrence Yepa, circa 2012
This pot is one of two I purchased from Lawrence Yepa two days ago. He and his wife Lupita are traditional potters from the Jemez Pueblo. The lizard inside the bowl really caught my eye.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mata Ortiz Wall Mount Fish Effigies

Pottery Fish Effigies by Jerardo & Normal Tena of Mata Ortiz

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rose Pacheco's Affordable Traditional Pueblo Pottery

Traditional Kewa Pottery by Rose Pacheco
Rose Pacheco of the Kewa Pueblo (formerly known as and still widely referred to as the Santo Domingo Pueblo) is a traditional potter; her wares are hand-coiled from locally gathered clays, decorated with popular centuries old animal and floral motifs with natural paints derived from area plants applied by yucca brush and then finally pit fired outdoors.   An egg white coating followed a vegetable oil imbues the work with the final soft sheen.    Hers is a centuries old labor intense method of crafting pottery which usually means high price tags, but Rose's excellent signed artistic pottery is surprisingly affordable.   The small 3 1/2 bowls pictured above currently retail for about $24 each, the 5 inch bowls for $40.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Steve Ellmore Indian Art

Last Saturday, Sandy and I traveled, as we frequently do, into Santa Fe for a meal and an update overview of the retail Native American art market.    The highlight of our day was a visit to Steve Elmore's gallery located a short walk from the plaza.   His shop is replete with vintage Native American art treasures.   I thought the most interesting display was a Hopi canteen collection.  Our visit gave us valuable insight into pottery pricing with respect to the date of creation and condition, but more importantly a museum quality look at numerous authentic distant pieces that still serve as pattern heritage basics for many of today's contemporary Pueblo potters. Our pleasurable visit was augmented by amiable conversation with Steve Elmore. 
I highly recommend the shop for Santa Fe visitors, but for those who do not have the opportunity to visit first hand, an online excursion through the shop website is enlightening and definitely worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earring Symmetry

Earrings Set in Sterling by an Unknown Navajo Inlay Specialist, circa 2012
A well known classical style Navajo silversmith once explained to me the challenge of symmetry in producing a pair of well crafted earrings. The biggest demanding chore is in finding or cutting stones enough alike to make a close match.   He summed up the frustration in saying, "earrings are more than twice the work of a pendant and they have no additional market value "   Our discussion pertained to an example of earrings with single cabochons mounted in silver. The difficulty of achieving an acceptable level of symmetry is obviously compounded with multiple stone inlay.

The earring pair pictured above illustrates remarkable construction symmetry of its component stones:  jasper, tiger eye, Acoma jet, and lab opal.    Each piece is individually cut from a much larger stone then shaped to fit by the inlay artist.  It is an exacting skill that requires great patience and a very high level of manual dexterity developed through years of practice. 

The unidentified Navajo inlay artist who designed, cut, and set the stone in silver to make this beautiful and unique set of matching earrings is worthy of high praise and appreciation.   The retail value of this particular pair is about $200.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who Gets Credit for This Reversible Bear Pendant?

Bear Pendant by Silversmith Calvin Begay and an Unnamed Navajo Inlay Artist, circa 2012
ANSWER:  Calvin Begay whose work is very well known. "Calvin Begay" is a widely distributed brand name like "Tommy Singer."  In fact, Calvin Begay's name is the second most widely recognized name in the Native American Indian Jewelry business today.  What is not commonly known to consumers and even many retail sellers is that virtually all pieces credited to him that have stone inlay work (like the bear above that has "Calvin Begay" stamped inside the bale) are not inlaid by Calvin.  He is a highly accomplished Navajo silversmith who rightfully should be credited for the metallic art aspects of his brand of jewelry.   However, the major captivating appeal goes to a Navajo stone inlay artist who almost always goes unnamed.  I frequently advocate for greater recognition of inlay artisans, but in reality adding a second name is usually problematic and especially so on small works or double sided pieces.  Besides space limitations, placing a good hallmark on metal is a technical art and it is not uncommon even on high end jewelry pieces to find compromised hallmark stamp imprints.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yesterday's Arrival

Mata Ortiz Roadrunner Effigy with Dragonfly by Gerardo & Norma Tena, circa 2012 
This marvel of clay art from Mata Ortiz by Gerardo and Norma Tena arrived yesterday.   It measures a mere 4 7/8 inches in height and 4 1/2 inches in length. The roadrunner, meticulously decorated with natural pigments, has a dragonfly in beak.   I eagerly look forward to buying more creations by this great pottery duo whose works are frequent award winners and can be found in museums and traveling exhibitions in Mexico and the USA.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unpacking Mata Ortiz

Mata Ortiz Geometric Design Pot by Dora Quezada, circa late 20th century
It seems much longer, but it has actually been only 5 weeks since I made the decision to expand my advocacy of Native American pottery beyond the Southwest border of the USA to include the renowned ceramic arts of Mata Ortiz, Mexico. My visit to the Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in April of this year turned the rusty key that reignited my personal passion for Mata Ortiz pottery, an interest which had been in hibernation for nearly twenty years. In the decade of the 1990's I took trips to Mata Ortiz to accumulate a collection of pottery works directly from the artists.  I've kept the large ollas and one effigy pot on exhibition shelves through four consecutive homes, but most of the pots remained safely boxed until 2 days ago when Sandy unpacked them to join our array of cultural artifacts on display.  The only signed Quezada piece I found was the small geometric-lizard motif olla pictured above by potter Dora Quezada, niece of Juan Quezada, the village local hero and man of legendary fame whose praises are now sung in ballads of tribute.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mata Ortiz Blackware Owl Pot

Twelve Inch Mata Ortiz Black Polished Effigy Owl Pot by Olivia Renteria Dominguez
Here is yet another supremely crafted hand-coiled pot by Mata Ortiz potter Olivia Dominguez.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Parrot Pot by Vidal Corona

Mata Ortiz Parrot Effigy Pot by Vidal Corona

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Most Excellent Owl Effigy Pot by Oliva Renteria Dominguez

Mata Ortiz Owl Effigy Pot
Here is another marvelous clay creation by my favorite pottery artisan, Olivia Renteria Dominguez of Mata Ortiz.  Note the lip of the pot is clearly visible when viewed from the back.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Santo Domingo Pueblo Bowl by Ione Coriz

Traditional Design Santo Domingo Pottery Bowl
by Ione Coriz, circa 2011

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mata Ortiz Black on Black Stone Polished Lizard Effigy Pot by Olivia Dominguez

Mata Ortiz Black Stone Polished Lizard Effigy Pot by Olivia Dominguez
This  black polished pot needs no comment, its superb beauty speaks enough.

A Cochiti Pueblo Storyteller With Micaceous Sparkle

A Cochiti Pueblo Storyteller With Micaceous Sparkle
Micaceous clay has been used by the indigenous people of North America for centuries to make durable cooking pots and for food, water, and seed storage containers. Pottery made of mica-rich clay has a readily recognizable characteristic sheen. Cochiti Pueblo potter Pam Tenorio used micaceous clay to produce the distinctive decorative glitter effect on the storyteller pictured above.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jemez Pueblo Turtle Storyteller Figurine by Mary Lucero

Jemez Pueblo Turtle Storyteller by Mary Lucero

The Pueblo storyteller era began in the 1960's at the Cochiti Pueblo, but these clay figurines have since become very popular creations just over the mountain in the red canyon country of the Jemez Pueblo.

Jorge Corona Guillen's Rattlesnake Pots

Rattlesnake Pots by Jorge Corona Guillen of Mata Ortiz

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Jemez Polychrome Vase by Natalie Sandia

Jemez Feather, Flower, and Wave Motif Polychrome Vase by Natalie Sandia
The Jemez Pueblo abandoned traditional pottery production following the depredations of  Spanish conquest. In the era beyond 1700 the tribe produced some coarse utilitarian pottery, but mainly relied on imported pottery from the nearby Zia pueblo. Some of the best examples of old Zia vessels have been found at Jemez. The Southwest tourist heyday of the 20's and 30's influenced a resurgence of decorative Jemez pottery, but the work was stylistically inferior to that of nearby neighboring pueblos like Zia, Santo Domingo, and San Ildelfonso. Their definitive competitive resurgence started in the last quarter of the 20th century. Today, artisans like Natalie Sandia and her mother Geraldine produce great work that has helped distinguish the Jemez Native American community as one of the most prolific and innovative contemporary pueblo potter production centers.

Scenic View of Rio Grande Pueblo Land

Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande River Bosque at Sunset
This is the most majestic view I have found in the vicinity of Albuquerque.   The lush, fully developed green canopy of the cottonwood trees lining the Rio Grande River has returned anew. I snapped this sunset scenic last evening from an overlook located a short walk from my front door. The vast acreage covered in this panoramic encompasses or borders the homeland of both modern and ancient Native American Pueblo tribes.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Owl Story Teller Figurine by Mary R Herrera

Cochiti Pueblo Owl Storyteller Figurine by Mary R. Herrera
Mary R Herrera and her daughter Johnna are both well known for their traditional Cochiti Pueblo storyteller figurines.

Mata Ortiz Lizard Effigy Wedding Vase by Angela Corona

Mata Ortiz Lizard Effigy Wedding Vase by Angela Corona

The Butterfly Lady of Mata Ortiz - Celia Lopez

Butterfly Motif Wedding Vase by Celia Lopez 
The butterfly is a recurrent decorative element for many Mata Ortiz potters, but Celia's excellent intense and dense butterfly images created by both paint and etch technique have earned her the appellation "The Butterfly Lady of Mata Ortiz."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Acoma Wedding Vase by H Poncho

Acoma Wedding Vase by H Poncho
The pictured wedding vase was produced by pouring slip casting into a mold.  The decoration technique is the same, but it is of much less value than a similar piece created in traditional fashion. Differentiating may be difficult, but looking at price is a good start.   If the wedding vase was made by hand coiling from locally harvested clay and fired outdoors, it would sell for 4 to 10 fold more. This one has a retail value of only $39.