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Native American Jewelry


#1

This is not meant to engage anyone in a debate over the value of gold
and diamonds versus silver and turquoise,goldsmithing versus
silversmithing,European values versus indigenous. It is simply a
sharing of with maybe a few on Orchid that might be
interested.I felt that there might be value in this after the
response from so many off-line.If no one is,it is very easy to just
strike the delete key.For those that are,I would like to introduce
you to a few people who are highly trained and educated in both
goldsmithing and silversmithing,diamond setting and turquoise
mounting,some have even had the opportunity to not only study in
Europe,but have been asked to come to various European countries to
teach.Among them,Charles Loloma,Kenneth Begay,his son Harvey
Begay,who I might mention holds a degree in Aeronautical Engineering
and was a US Navy fighter pilot as well as civilian test pilot,before
returning to the Navajo reservation to take up his childhood skills
as a jeweler.He eventually left and opened up galleries in Colorado
and elsewhere.His father Kenneth Begay won awards for his work all
over America and the world,Larry Golsh,Allan Houser(Apache),who was
not only a goldsmith and silversmith,but world renown painter and
sculptor,whose work along with the others mentioned,occupy treasured
places in museums and galleries all over the world.The list could go
on and on,there are literally hundreds upon hundreds (look in Barton
Wrights book of hallmarks) both men and women alike,all Native
American,fullblood and mixed blood,all have or do use ground corn cob
at times to mount turquoise or other traditional stones/shell.Their
work commands unbelievable prices,not just a few dollars or cents,on
the low end of craft work.Ever see a $40,000 concho belt?a platinum
and Sleeping Beauty turquoise (natural not stabilized) ring? gold and
turquoise with diamonds jewelry? Not quite what one would call low
end craft work.I pray that what I have said here offends no one,but
praises those Native American artists/jewelers whose work is sought
after from all over the world ( I wish mine fell into this
catagory),as well as all the others whose work is still
magnificently beautiful. I also pray that this is accepted in the way
it is intended,because I believe this is what Orchid is all about,
the sharing of both technical and that will
enlighten us all to other cultures and peoples,and their way of doing
things ,as being acceptable and valuable.Wishing success and
happiness to all,walk in beauty, John Barton,Images By JJ


#2

Hi John!

I enjoyed reading your post, I’m a deep admirer of Native American
arts and culture, too. I’m not Native myself but my daughter is
tribally enrolled, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to learn
about and experience countless things that inspired me in infinite
ways and broadened my respect as wide as the horizon line for
Indigenous traditions.

Several years ago I stumbled across a shop-museum on the mountain
road half way between Estes Park and Nederland, CO, called (I think)
White Plume. I expected a touristy place when I pulled off the road
but was still curious. As soon as I opened the door, I was hypnotized
by the beauty, quality and variety of Native arts inside. It was the
first time I’d seen such extraordinary jewelry in person. Senator Ben
Nighthorse Campbell is one of the artisans represented. It’s quite a
place!

I live in Lawrence Kansas, about 30 miles west from Kansas City and
30 miles east of Topeka. Haskell Indian Nations University is located
here. Every September Haskell hosts an Indian Art Market that is out
of this world, artisans of all medium come from all over North
America to display and sell their work. It’s a terrific chance to
meet people, learn about their individual arts, see a great range of
materials and styles and to buy directly from the people who put so
much of themselves into what they create.

It’s scheduled for September 9&10 - I just wanted to pass this along
in case anyone might be interested and is close enough to go. I
honestly look forward to it all year long!

Best to All! Jeanette Marie Kekahbah in Lawrence where three years
worth of summer heat have washed over the prairie all at once…and
doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon…


#3

I agree totally - Charles Loloma’s work is still fetching very high
prices when you can find it - the last piece I saw was in a museum in
New Mexico - another native american artist whose work is exquisite is
Andy Kirk - N. Blair - West Southwest Gallery


#4

Tom, The gallery you went to is actually just northwest of Allen’s
park and is called Charlie Eagle Plumes.It is now owned by his
family.He passed on a few years back.He was, I believe half Cherokee
and a friend of my Aunts who also has passed on.They were buddies
back in the thirties.She was a guide for a dude ranch called Hues
Kirkwood(now the Rocky Mountain Conservatory of music)She led
easterners as she called them up Longs peak which was no small feat in
the thirties Longs peak is a fourteener meaning the summit is at 14000
ft above sea level/We have a few of those here in Colorado.Anyway
Charlie was involved as cook and head storyteller.The way she tells
it all the women had a crush on him.When I “discovered” Charlie’s
place in the early eighties I was in awe.Charlie wasn’t around the
first time I set foot in the gallery but his spirit was the place was
festooned with artifacts.Pima feather baskets sat and still do in a
glass cases against the wall.These baskets have a very tight weave are
not very big but have woodpecker feathers woven into them.The colors
are vibrant and they are beautiful.He had baskets with weaves so tight
as to be able to hold water.Blankets laid and hung from the log
rafters.Navaho,Zuni.Two Grey hills.Early trade blankets with muted
colors.Museum pieces most not for sale. The pieces he did have for
sale were contemporary and prize winning.The jewelry was the best.
Navaho head stalls.(Bridals for horses)Hand made in sterling and
old.Tobacco canteens.Comanchee conchas.Concha belts worn by John Wayne
and used in various western movies made by hand.Pieces from Arizona
Hiways magazine.Gallup State fair ribbon winner pieces in Gold and
silver.Turquoise from all the old mines.There was and is and upstairs
gallery that has sand paintings oils prints and lithos by various
artists along with pottery.When I told my Aunt about the “discovery” I
had made she was into her eighties and beamed "Oh that’s Charlie’s
place"I was even more impressed."You have to take Melissa (my
daughter)up there. He’ll tell her a story and give her a feather."she
said So I took her up there shortly after that.She was a couple of
years old.We walked into his place and there he sat in an old chair
reserved for him.Smoking a cigarette in a red plaid shirt.His hair was
slicked back as if he never left Hues Kirkwood in the thirties.He saw
my daughter and I explained that my Aunt Hazel had known him at the
ranch down the road and his eyes lit up and he reached back behind his
chair and pulled out an “eagle feather” for my daughter.It had a red
tuft glued to it.And he proceeded to tell her a story of how the eagle
had given up its feather and somehow a beaver was involved.I was
listening to the story and looking at jewelry at the same time and the
jewelry was winning.My daughter and I made that pilgrimage often over
the years and Charlie passed out many"Eagle Feathers"and stories to
us.She is now at seveteena very good jeweler and artist.After he
passed on his wish was to donate much of his treasure to museums
around the country which was done but his collection was so vast that
his gallery lives on with some beautiful pieces the likes of which
will never be seen again once the gallery is closed for good.Sorry
this is so long but Charlie Eagle Plumes is an impressive little
place and deserves it. Best J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio Where the
hay is in the horses are fed and the rain is fallin AT LAST!


#5

And can I add another name to the list of incredibly talented Native
American artist? Cody Hunter who lives in Chilne, AZ, has the finest
sawing skills I’ve ever seen. His version of a story bracelet is
amazing. In addition to his own initials, Cody’s work is signed LL
(who helps him). If you get a chance to see Cody and his work I
think you’ll be glad you did.

Joyce Albers


#6

J Morley,

Wow. Thanks for sharing that! I was there in '95 or '96. The couple
working then told me about Charlie and the museum items that weren’t
for sale. I’ve yearned to go back and I’ve tried to explain this
place to people. I always fall short of succeeding of either. I’ve
felt that it’s impossible to REALLY describe it, imagine my pleasant
surprise to read your message! Thank you for the treat!

Best,
Jeanette Marie Kekahbah


#7

All this threading re Native American jewelry has come at the right
time.

Our Gem and Mineral Society is an affiliate of the Graves Museum of
Archaeology and Natural History in Dania Beach, FL. In addition to
making stones and items to be sold in their gift shop and sharing
space with the display shop, we do odd jobs for them such as helping
with their archives, assisting the geology department, and providing
advice on things about the lapidary and jewelry arts.

Recently I was asked by the Deputy Director to take a look at some
"stuff" they had in the archives. It turned out to be a collection of
jewelry donated along with other items by a well-to-do sponsor who had
traveled the world. There are a number of pretty mundane costume
items, another category I would say is from around the 1950-60’s
period but which contains some beads that could demand a pretty penny,
and then there is the silver jewelry. There are about 30 pieces of
silver “stuff” from Mexico, Scandinavia, China, India, and the
American Southwest.

This is not my forte but I cautioned the DDir to be cautious how he
disposes of this stuff as some could be valuable. The things
Orchidians have been saying lately led me to caution him again
yesterday. Many pieces could easily date from the 1930 to 50’s when
some currently well known artisans may not have been marking their
pieces.

My question is: Is there anyone out there who can direct me to
someone in or near South Florida who might have a handle on this sort
of thing? Or else, are there books avail that would help in
identifying items with the maker sans any makers marks? Any and all
comments or will be most welcome.

Don at The Charles Belle Studio where simple elegance IS fine
jewelry!