Calvin Desson

Introduction

Navajo artist Calvin Desson creates magic with his spectacular inlay work. He brings rocks to life with scenes inspired from his Navajo Reservation upbringing. His work amazes all of us here at the Trading Post and we have been fortunate enough to see lots of pieces. Last year he won a blue ribbon for a bolo, and we imagine more and more awards will be coming his way as his career progresses.

Perry Null Trading

Where did you grow up?

Calvin Desson

I am from the Lupton area.

Perry Null Trading

Did you go through school there?

Calvin Desson

I went all over. Hunter’s Point, Tohatchi, Sanders, and Wingate.

Perry Null Trading

Those are boarding schools?

Calvin Desson

Yes, I would stay at school all week and then come home on the weekends.

Perry Null Trading

What got you into art?

Calvin Desson

In the 5th grade I had an art class. We would enter our art at local art fairs and I would win some ribbons. That is when I started to get into art.

Perry Null Trading

What were you making?

Calvin Desson

Drawings, usually pencil and would do animal and scenery.

Perry Null Trading

Did you do any other type of art during your school years?

Calvin Desson

In the 9th grade I had a pottery making class at Sanders that I took for a year. It was messy and after that year I went back to drawing.

Perry Null Trading

So when did you start making jewelry?

Calvin Desson

I had a child during high school and was married. So after high school I started looking for a job, this was in the mid 1980s. I landed work in Oklahoma and was in Tulsa for the next 3 years.

Perry Null Trading

Did your family go with you?

Calvin Desson

No, I lived off of my per diem and would send my paycheck home.

Perry Null Trading

What did you do after Oklahoma?

Calvin Desson

The company I worked for went out of business so I came back home and started looking for work again. This time I got a job doing plumbing for a big hotel being built in Deer Valley, AZ.

Perry Null Trading

How long did that last?

Calvin Desson

A couple of years and then the company moved to the next project in Las Vegas. That is when I decided to come back home again.

Perry Null Trading

So this is when you start making jewelry.

Calvin Desson

I looked around for other employment, but just couldn’t find the jobs here like you can in the big cities.

Perry Null Trading

So what did you do?

Calvin Desson

My grandpa’s brother worked for Yellowhorse Trading in Lupton and got me a job there doing inlay work.

Perry Null Trading

That is the first time you make jewelry, your parents didn’t teach you jewelry making?

Calvin Desson

My father was an artist, he made sandpaintings and jewelry, but he didn’t teach me because of the fire danger when I was little.

Perry Null Trading

Ok, so you go to work at Yellowhorse, what is the first thing you make?

Calvin Desson

They gave me three stones and by the end of the day I had made a three stone face, and after two weeks I was staying late to get extra work.

Perry Null Trading

It just came natural to you?

Calvin Desson

I have always been a fast learner and creating with my hands has always come easy.

Perry Null Trading

Walk me through the process you use now?

Calvin Desson

I have lots of drawings. So I will take pieces from my drawings and sketch what I am going to make. The sketch will be the size of the piece so next I will make the silver. After that I get the stones I am going to use and start to cut them down, using a mini-blade. That is the process until I get the shape I want.

Perry Null Trading

How long did you stay at Yellowhorse?

Calvin Desson

Three months, and that is when Alvin Yellowhorse asked me to come work for him. I would do more difficult inlay and after I worked for him I went out on my own, that was about 2004.

Perry Null Trading

Do you do any shows?

Calvin Desson

No, I sell mostly here in Gallup, sometimes heading out to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Perry Null Trading

You do art fulltime, what is next for you?

Calvin Desson

Yes, I work full-time and who knows, maybe someday I will come in here with a three dimensional face.

Perry Null Trading

Thanks.



Available art from: Desson, Calvin