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Navajo silversmith 1901

I am looking at a postcard I bought probably 35 yrs. ago, while
passing through northern Az. This postcard has been tacked to the
wall of every studio I’ve worked in since I bought the post card.

It shows a Navajo silversmith in his studio in 1901. He is sitting
on a dirt floor with a rough mud-chinked log wall in the background.
He’s shirtless, sitting cross legged on the floor in front of a short
section of wood stump on which is mounted a small worn beak-horn
anvil. In one hand, he appears to have a narrow silver bracelet with
lots of detail stamped onto it, and in the other hand, a claw hammer.
You can see a piece of tufa stone leaned up against the wall with 3
simple impressions carved into it, and another small sledge hammer on
the dirt floor. What looks like an open cigar box sits near his knee
with a roll of what looks like leather resting on the wooden box.

That’s it. That’s all that appears in his studio, other than a shirt
and a pair of pants hanging on the back wall.

It’s the look on the weathered and sun baked face of this
silversmith which grabs your attention, though. It is a look of
complete concentration and peacefulness. He’s relaxed, just working
on his creation, in the midst of what most of us, without the man
sitting there working, would not remotely recognize as a workshop at

Would you like to guess what a piece of this artist’s work might be
worth in today’s market??

I remain astounded that from such primitive workshops and tools came
such beautiful silverwork, much sought after by collectors today.

This man, whose name I don’t know, has inspired me through all these

Jay Whaley

Jay, After living in Gallup, NM, for a year back in the seventies,
and seeing a lot of older work, and some of the workshops, have been
totally fascinated with the work.


I am positive that the picture you described on the postcard is the
same picture that is in a book call Navajo Silversmiths. I’d confirm
but is is packed at the moment.

The book details the nomadic lifestyle making it necessary to be
"lightly tooled" and many of the tools were handmade using what they
could find.

Keith Hible

i sure would like to see that postcard…can you scan and upload?

Any one who wants to see the postcard, go to Ebay and search for
Navajo Silversmith and several postcard will come up for purchase.

I see the desire for tools crushing careers, I fall into that myself
pretty often. I am getting better at attempting to look at the
desired return on investment any tool I buy will bring before the
purchase but it is hard when I fall in love with a tool and the
happiness I think it will bring. Same with studio space, packaging of
finished goods and advertising. It took me a long time but happiness
in my career is just the same as happiness in all other parts of my
life, it comes from within. Now, I don’t want to get all spiritual on
Orchid, I do have some boundaries. But, really, the pursuit of tools
or any other overhead item detracts from the real point of what I
love about my work. In fact the pursuit of the market and sales does
too but balance must be struck. Be a tool collector or a
crafts-person. Use what you have or wish for what ever else. When I
get all wrapped around my axle about what I can and can’t do with
what I have I get back to center by just working. Produce. Make more
of what sells, scrap what doesn’t. Make mistakes but just produce.

Sam Patania, Tucson