Ervin Tsosie Navajo Inlay Artist

Ervin Tsosie Navajo Inlay Artist Navajo Artist Ervin Tsosie

Ervin Tsosie Navajo inlay artist is not an easy man to get to know. First, he is very quiet and he doesn’t always seem to be comfortable with casual conversation. Ervin reflects most of his energy on family and culture, and if you are not familiar with the ways of the Dine you just might not get much out of the conversation. This quiet man makes pieces of art that speak loudly.

Perry Null Trading

What do you call your style of art, micro inlay?

Ervin Tsosie

You hear it called different things. I am an artist and I call it my art.

Perry Null Trading

How did you get involved in making jewelry?

Ervin Tsosie

My wife Elvira and I started making jewelry in the 1980s. It started as a way to make a living but evolved into something very different.

Perry Null Trading

What are the two of you making? Your work today is very complicated, so I know that you didn’t start there?

Ervin Tsosie

Elvira would do the silver work and I would set stones. We would make simple stone set pieces of jewelry, but I was learning very quickly and things changed fast.

Perry Null Trading

Did you have a teacher, someone that helped you learn how to inlay?

Ervin Tsosie

Everything I was doing was self-taught. I was picking up the stone work quickly and that led to my interest in inlay.

Perry Null Trading

Yeah, in the 1980s you didn’t have as many Navajo artists doing inlay, people thought of inlay as more of a Zuni style.

Ervin Tsosie

I would get asked all the time if I was Zuni, and I sold to a dealer in Zuni so many people just assumed I was Zuni. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the inlay was because you didn’t have many Navajo’s working in this style. Today it is common to see a Navajo inlayer, but back then it wasn’t.

Perry Null Trading

You mentioned that you transitioned from approaching your jewelry making as earning a living to something else, what does that mean?

Ervin Tsosie

My grandpa was a medicine man and my mom danced in the fire dance. The Dine culture is my center. I am always thinking about my culture and how can I transfer that to my art. It became more about telling the Navajo story in my art than making something I could sell that didn’t have meaning to me.

Perry Null Trading

I see the stories in your night ceremony inlay pieces, what is the story in the piece you brought in today?

Ervin Tsosie Navajo Inlay Artist Ervin Tsosie Inlay Turquosie Bolo
Ervin Tsosie

I used lots of different colored turquoise stones to surround the center stone. All of those different colors represent days and how different each day can be. Around the inlay is the Navajo rug pattern that shows the Navajo walk of life. That is how the piece talked to me before I began.

Perry Null Trading

Before you begin a piece of jewelry do you sketch it out?

Ervin Tsosie

In my culture everything has a spirit. The mountains, the land, everything is alive. I pray and I have a vision of what that piece of art should be. I do a visual drawing and try to project that into my art.

Perry Null Trading

I know that you have had some back problems, are those still with you?

Ervin Tsosie

Yes, it has gotten really bad. It really affects my work. This last year I have only been able to make a handful of pieces.

Perry Null Trading

I thought you were scheduled to have surgery?

Ervin Tsosie

I was, but everything fell apart at the end. Elvira lost her mother the day before I was suppose to have surgery and I wasnt able to commit to having it at that time.

Perry Null Trading

How long have you had the back issues?

Ervin Tsosie

For a long time. The last 10 years have been really bad. When I was young I would help my brother with his rodeo company. Along with riding dirt bikes and the impacts I had from crashes and getting thrown off horses it took a toll on my back.

Perry Null Trading

Hopefully you will get the surgery in the near future?

Ervin Tsosie

I draw on the support of my family. They are always encouraging and not being able to work has been very hard on me. I want to get back to my art and family.

Perry Null Trading

Good luck with your future, we look forward to seeing more from Ervin Tsosie Navajo inlay artist.



Available art from: Tsosie, Ervin