Navajo artist Aaron Anderson spent lots of years fighting demons. The combination of silver and tufa stone saved his life. Today Aaron opens his studio to anyone who wants to see him work, or has a desire to learn the art of tufa casting. Navajo artist Kevin Yazzie had never made a piece of jewelry until Aaron invited him to stop by his shop.
1970 to Present
tufa cast original designs
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
Where did you grow up?
How was that?
It was great. My mom taught at the Chuska Boarding School so we lived in housing at the school. All my friends were from there, and that made all of us really close.
Is that where you finished high school?
The boarding school doesn’t have a high school, so I finished at Tohatchi High School.
Were you involved in any sports?
I played baseball. Our team was pretty good. We made it to the State Tournament a couple of times..
What position did you play?
Pitcher. I had over 500 strikeouts during my high school career.
Wow, that is impressive. How about school, did you have a favorite subject and continue into college?
I always liked math. After I graduated I went to UNM/Gallup for a couple of years.
You didn’t finish school?
No, I was working fulltime while I was attending UNM and just starting working more and more.
What kind of job did you have?
I was working as a night security guard at the Alcohol Treatment Center.
You worked all night and then went to school?
I was getting pretty burned out. That job was my favorite. I met lots of interesting people and got to know all of the street people. Every night was different.
How long did you work there?
For five years.
When do you start to get involved with jewelry?
After that job I moved to Albuquerque and did lots of different jobs. I worked in a lumberyard, poured concrete for swimming pools and did different jobs in the food industry. After a couple of years in Albuquerque I moved back to Gallup. I started working at the Truck Stops of America and eventually moved over to Walgreens.
I started selling on eBay. I would go around to the different stores and the flea market and buy jewelry. I was doing pretty good selling on ebay and working at Walgreens.
Is that what sparked your interest in jewelry making, ebay?
One day Aaron Anderson was in the store and I was helping him. He was picking up pictures from a trip to Japan and I was full of questions. He told me to stop by his shop and see if I liked jewelry making. I knew who he was but didn’t know him. So, I started hanging out at his studio.
How do we go from hanging out at the studio to making jewelry?
I was really into it. I watched everything to see how he did it. Before going to Aaron’s shop I didn’t know anything about jewelry making. He gave me some tufa stone and told me to start carving.
How was your first piece?
It was awful. It was suppose to be this small pendant and it weighed over three ounces. My depths were really messed up and I had no idea what I was doing.
So what do you do after that?
I was embarrassed to take any more of Aaron’s tufa stone so I went to Thunderbird and bought my own. I started to work on a bracelet. It came out really nice and I sold it online for $230.
Did you use your ebay account to sell your jewelry?
My first three pieces I did. After that I started to take my work around and sell it in town and would go up to Santa Fe.
How about online, are you going to try and do more of that in the future?
I am trying to build my instagram profile right now. I might try Etsy.
You begin to make jewelry and that is progressing well?
I broke my hand soon after making those first pieces and had to have surgery. During this time I would spend all of my free time at Aaron’s study just absorbing everything he did. I broke my right hand and I am right handed. I started carving a piece with my left hand and it was my first really complete piece. Aaron was amazed I did that with my left hand.
Are you still working at Walgreens during this time?
I stayed there for awhile, but I started to get lots of orders and just couldn’t keep up. I wanted to do art and so I left Walgreens to concentrate on jewelry.
What are your plans for the future?
I am going to apply for the Heard and Santa Fe Indian Market and hopefully get in. Creating jewelry is really rewarding and I want to keep doing this.