Lewis (Mertz) Malie is a nephew of Maxx and Pernell Laate and as he grew up he watched them work, picking up techniques and inspiration. Though Lewis Malie grew up in a family of carvers, he has developed a work style different than any fetish maker I know of.
He has never used a grinder as others do to rough out his pieces and do the basic shaping. He carves his amazing fetishes using only a Dremel and at that uses only three bits. That minimalism of tools certainly doesn’t handicap him and undoubtedly enhances his super fine detail.
Though his work is similar to his uncle Maxx and his cousin Esteban Najera his subjects and his style are his own. Though they all carve stunning eagles, each of them manages to make their birds uniquely their own. One eagle carving shows an eagle on the ground, wings outspread in a protective pose, but there is a large rattlesnake in the bird’s beak, revealed like a surprise.
Mertz also carves a lot of bats. They are challenging because they don’t have the detailed feathers of birds. In an effort to keep interest among buyers and collectors, most Zuni fetish artists have ventured into a Noah’s Ark of animals. One of Lewis’s most interesting pieces is an iguana climbing a branch. The slitted eyes are inlayed with black stone. That and the shape of the mouth make the lizard look somewhat sinister.
He once carved twenty eagles on a single piece. One of his signature pieces is a two-part antler pendant: an eagle head backed by a detailed feather. The two parts move separately. Each one he does is a little different.