Steven J Begay
1975 to Present
Strong, clean stampwork, traditional style
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
How long have you & Kari been together?
We have been together for 34 years.
How did you get involved in working silver?
I was at Fort Wingate School and the silver workshop needed some help. A silversmith left them so they brought me in and I started working on silver. That is where I learned the basics, solder work and stamping.
How long did you work for them?
I worked for them two weeks, then went to Holbrook and started doing work for a shop there, owned by Darrell Parker. He was paying me $20 for one bracelet, that was much more than in Wingate.
How long did you work for Darrell Parker?
When I was in Holbrook I met Kari. She worked at a dry cleaning shop there, that is where I took my shirts. After a couple of years in Holbrook, we left for Phoenix in 1977.
Did you continue working on silver there?
I worked for Al Zuni in Phoenix. He paid me by the hour and I was making better money. While I was there I worked on everything, and lots of gold.
What made you come back to the Winslow area?
We applied for a house there from the Navajo Housing Authority and received the paperwork that it was going to go through, we came back in 1987.
When you went out on your own what made you decide to do overlay work?
I was going to the Native American Church and you had lots of symbols in the Church. Things like fans, peyote buttons, and starburst were being used. I would incorporate this into my jewelry.
What kind of reaction did you initially get from your work?
Buyers would not want to pay real high for it. I just kept doing the overlay style and eventually it began to be really good.
What was your first big break?
I would take my work to Ken Osborne in Sedona. He had a friend at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and told him about me. I received an application in the mail and filled it out. That was for the 1988 Heard Museum Native American Art Show.
How did you do at your first show?
I won best in category for an all silver belt. The same thing happen to me in 1996 when I was at the Indian Market in Santa Fe for the first time, a first place ribbon for a squash blossom and a best in division for a concho belt. At the Navajo Nation Fair I won the Navajo Nation Vice President award for my art the first time I entered.
Do people find you for jewelry?
Yes, I have had Japanese customers come to my house. They will ask people in my area where I live and everyone knows me so they tell them. Also, people from Australia and other parts of the United States. I tell them to go see Perry Null (laughs). I was invited to go to Japan and do a demonstration and sell my work, but I decided not to go.
Do you remember your most favorite piece you made?
It was a all silver sqaush blossom, it was great. I sold it in 1999 to a Trader in Gallup.