1970 to Present
Classic Navajo silver, commonly with high shine
I know you are originally from Arizona and your wife is from New Mexico. Being from opposite ends of the Reservation how did you meet?
We met through my sister. At first we became good friends, and then a couple of years later we married.
Do you have a big family?
We have four children, two boys and two girls. The boys are the oldest, the oldest being 30 years old. They have a framing company and stay busy doing construction work. The girls the youngest, our baby is 13 years old. Our oldest daughter is a Pre-School Director for the Eastern Navajo Agency.
So none of the children are following your footsteps by making jewelry?
No, they all have their careers and are happy doing what they do.
When did you first get into making jewelry?
My wife introduced me to jewelry. She was the one who taught me how to silversmith. Before that I did other types of work.
What other types of work?
I worked for the cable company in Albuquerque laying cable for televisions. That job I had for six years, they moved me to Phoenix. Then they wanted to move me to Oregon, but knew that I couldn’t take my children that far away. After that I operated heavy equipment for about 5 years.
What are the benefits of being in business for your self?
When I was 13 years old my late Uncle, James Begay Sr., taught me how to team rope. I couldn’t do this when I was working these other jobs because I would have to work on the weekends. Now I can do my team roping and make jewelry.
Are you the header or healer?
I am a healer. My fastest time is 5.3 seconds. I have a 13 year old quarter horse named Slash, and he is a good one. It also allows me to make trophy buckles for competitions, like the one I have on. I made this for a guy who never paid me, so I wear it. Traded a buckle with my cousin Gibson Nez for some stones once.
Where you a big athlete in high school?
I played basketball, football, baseball, and wrestled at Holbrook High School. In wrestling I went undefeated until the last match in the state final.
You said that your wife taught you silversmithing. Where did your style come from?
When I first started making jewelry I made traditional style pieces. About seven years ago I started making more contemporary pieces. I combine both traditional designs with contemporary designs, this is how I wanted to make my jewelry.
This design is very striking. Have your pieces done well in shows?
Yes, I have won best of show awards and show my jewelry in correspondence with the Indian Market. I get a good response from customers and am always staying busy.