1980 to Present
Detailed stampwork and etching, unique pieces are common
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
Begay, Ernest R., Martinez, Rick, Martinez, Terry
When did you first begin making jewelry?
I started in 1970 when I was 14 years old. My family made jewelry so that is where I got my start. In the beginning I did lots of cast work.
Today do you still use those same techniques?
Yes, it is like I make my jewelry from scratch. Instead of buying sheet silver I will buy scrap silver and melt that down and then use my roller to get the desired thickness. My jewelry is all handmade from start to finish.
You do most of your work in the traditional style, is their a reason for this?
That is the style I like. When I go to the shops in town I always look at the pawn jewelry to get ideas. I also get lots of orders from elder Navajo people, and they always want the jewelry heavy and in the traditional style.
When did your work start to get recognized by collectors?
In 1983 I did a show in Kansas City where a woman came to my booth. She was wearing a bracelet that I liked and recognized. I asked her if I could see it, and it was a piece I had made. I told her and she was very happy to meet me. At that time I realized that my style was one people liked and buying.
Who are some of the artist you had an influence on?
I taught my brothers Terry & Rick, and also my brother in-law Ernest Begay. I have also worked with non-indian artist, teaching a person from North Carolina and another from San Antonio, Texas.
You can not find your work at many of the trading post in Gallup, why?
I will only sell my work to people I know. Buyers that appreciate the work and the ones I can talk about jewelry with, many buyers do not know good jewelry and are always trying to beat down your price.
Do you know where some of your best pieces have gone to?
I have a collector who contacts me for piece work. He has over 200 of my pieces, some work I have never duplicated. In the home he has it in a showcase, and some of them have very collectable pieces of turquoise. It would be nice to have some of those back.