Darryl Dean Begay
Darryl Dean Begay DDB
1997 to Present
Darryl Dean Begay - Signature
1997 to Present
Tufa art with great turquoise
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
How does one become such a great artist? Did you start at a young age? Amazing teachers? How?
(smiles) My uncle, Bobby Begay, asked me to help him get ready for a show in Mesa Verde, that was 1997.
1997? You graduated from Chinle High School in 1991 and the first time you make a piece of silver is 1997?
I was working and going to school, just living. When my Uncle asked me to go I was very open to that. He had me carve tufa to make a bracelet and it just felt natural, felt right.
So the first time you make a piece of jewelry is just over ten years ago, and today you are the famous Darryl Dean Begay, Navajo tufa cast master?
(smiles again) I had lots of breaks and some very influential people in the Native American Art Industry helped along the way.
You make the first piece of tufa jewelry for your Uncle, is that it, is this your one teaching lesson?
My Uncle has been very influential in my art and was my first teacher. He learned from his brother, Timothy Begay, who made piece work for someone else and didn't use his own stamp. Timothy was very talented and had learned jewelry making from Kenneth Begay, while he was teaching at Navajo Community College.
The, Kenneth Begay?
Yes, I believe he was one of the most innovative jewelry artists of all-time.
Back to your Uncle, Bobby, does he still make jewelry?
He says he is going to start again. He became a substance abuse counselor and has done that fulltime.
Lets get back to 1997. You have now made your first piece of tufa jewelry, it feels right, what do you do next?
I had expressed to my Uncle that this is what I wanted to do. He asked me if I wanted to be a production artists making lots of jewelry, or wanted to think about what I was going to make and put my energy and soul into the work. I wanted my art to come from the heart. So I started experimenting and making silver that came from my experiences and life.
You talked about getting breaks and influential people, how does this play into your jewelry making?
I have had lots of big breaks and many great people have helped me along the way. The first person I think of is Navajo artist Raymond Yazzie who played a very influential role and my wanting to become an artist. He took me in as a friend and showed me things, like where he worked and how he worked. Raymond taught me how to inlay, lapidary work. Also, stones and quality. I always pick the best possible stones to put into my work, like Raymond.
How about making a living, you're an artist now. Are you living the typical struggling artists life?
Another big break (smiles a third time). Peggy Lanning owns the Turquoise Tortoise Art Gallery in Sedona, she carries big names, and she would buy my early work.
I am still having trouble grasping the time frames. I remember being at Indian Market in the early 2000s and you are a recognized artist, how did you get there so quick?
(smiles with a chuckle) When I started making jewelry and knew that this is what I wanted I read about the Santa Fe Indian Market Show. I knew that I wanted to do this and mailed my application in for the 1999 show.
So you have only been making jewelry for a year, read about one of the Industries most prestigious art shows, and say "hey I want to do that!"?
I had to send them pictures of my work. Another big break (laughs) they really were impressed with a buckle I had made. It was a mountain scene and I had put some inlay work in the piece, before I had my instruction from Raymond. It just worked, my style was different then they had seen and the inlay was unrefined (raw), that works with my tufa style.
OK, so how about before the one year art struggle, what else is going on in your life?
1997 is a big year for me, I become an artist and I meet my future wife, Rebecca, while at Northern Arizona Univeristy.
Now you have houseful? How many children do you have?
I have three sons, Robert is 5, Nathan is 8, and Matthew is 10.
Are they going to be artists like their parents?
Matthew and Nathan have both shown in Children's Category at Indian Market. Matthew won a ribbon for a dinosaur buckle, and Nathan a ribbon for a train belt.
That's great. How about your style, when I see your work I can always tell it is yours. How did you come about this style?
I don't like to think of my work as a certain style. I am open to making things that involve multiple techniques, experiment, and find those new ways of expressing myself through the metal and stone. When I first started I had friends who told me how important it was to have an original style, that is how I think of my work.
When I think of your work I always think of pieces that incorporate your Navajo culture into it. Do you do that for a reason?
All of my art work is a reflection of who I am, it comes from the actual experiences I have had in my life. Many of those experiences come from living on the Navajo Reservation and spending time in my culture. That is why it reveals so much of the Navajo culture, but I do not use the Yei'bi'chi.
Many Navajo artist will incorporate the Yei'bi'chi into their work, why don't you?
Simple, my Grandma asked me once if I knew the prayers and the songs, I didn't and it ended there.
Is it hard to not produce a bunch of quick easy silver, I imagine lots of people would line up to buy it?
When I started I made the choice for my work to mean something and to always challenge myself to make something new and better. I want my jewelry to be around long after I am gone and to be very collectible. That will not happen if my jewelry was not made from the heart and produced in an assembly line where I do not have complete control of the finished art.
What do you think we will see from you next?
My friend and author Gregory Schaaf always tells me the best is yet to come from Darryl Begay, I like that.
Thanks, real quick tell me about your online ventures?
I have the redstreakdeisgns.com that talks about us and gives insight into my work and culture. If you visit turquoisehousegallery.com you will find my online outlet, it is something new and hopefully will become a place where people can