1975 to Present
Classic Zuni Cluster style
Waatsa, Lance, Cordelia
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
When did you make your first piece of jewelry?
(smiles) I started in 1971 when I was still living with my parents.
Do you remember what it was?
I still have it, it was a small cluster pendant. My second piece showed much improvement and I sold that to Tobe Turpen.
Who taught you how to make your jewelry?
I learned from both my parents and grandparents.
So you started making jewelry for a living. Who did you sell your art to?
Zuni didn’t have as many places as it does now. So I would come into Gallup a lot to sell my jewelry. All I can think of is Pueblo Arts and a Vanderwagen store in Zuni when I first started.
Did you have collectors and dealers that would find you in Zuni?
Yes, my mom had lots of customers who would come to her house and some of them would buy jewelry that I had made. Also, during the late 70s and 80s The Rocking Horse Ranch would buy lots of our jewelry.
Walk me through the process of how you go about making your cluster jewelry?
First, I spend lots of time separating stones so that I can match color and size. It depends what I am making, but if the piece is small I pick smaller stones, bigger pieces get bigger stones. This way I don’t have much waste.
Do you get your stones in Zuni?
I use to buy most of my stones in Zuni but now I get them here in Gallup, better selection of what I need.
I have always heard stories that stone dealers would set up shop in parking lots in Zuni and sell turquoise out of the truck, is this true?
We use to not have as many choices as we do now, so it was common in the 1970s and into the 1980s to buy stones this way. It usually happened every two weeks, someone would get a call that the turquoise seller was coming and we all would go meet him at the
specified time. It was usually Kingman Turquoise.
So you have picked the rough turquoise or coral stones, what is next?
I start shaping the stones to get them closer to the shape I will need. I grind the stones on a 100 grit wheel without using any water. After I get the stone close to the shape I will use a sealing wax that I melt to a stick (size depends on the stone) and
place the stone on the wax. Using the stick instead of my hands I am able to perfect the size of the stone.
That is lots of work for one stone. So, now you have the stone in the perfect size, do you start to bezel them?
No, I have patterns of the piece I am going to make so I already know what size I am going to need. The silver work is usually always done before I start the stone work.
Do you do all of the work?
My husband, Luwayne will usually do the silverwork, unless the piece is small and then I have to do all the work myself.
Do you remember a certain piece or order you have had that is unique?
In 1983 my sister Ruberta ordered a huge necklace. It was a challenge from the usual small pieces I make. I think she sold it or lost in pawn because I saw it for sale at one of the local Trading Post.
How about ribbons?
I have won blue ribbons from the Gallup Ceremonial.
So do most of your orders come from collectors/dealers finding you in Zuni?
No, mostly from dealers in Gallup or Zuni. A couple of months ago I had an order for 40 rings, that takes lots of time. I make jewelry fulltime, that is what I do.
Customers always ask about your mother, what can you tell us about her work?
She, along with my grandparents always told me to make quality not quantity. I still use many patterns that my mother made.
How about her hallmark, do you remember when she started using it, or your grandparents.
I started using my hallmark, LW, in the mid 1970s. My mother and grandparents started using their hallmarks in the late 1960s.
Thank you, look forward to seeing that coral cluster concho belt.