Navajo silversmith Sunshine Reeves is the popular guy, you know, the guy everyone knows by name and likes to be around. His silver work takes on those same attributes, it is work everyone likes and enjoys wearing all the time. People all over the world wear his work. No matter if it is a silver stamped bracelet or an elaborate silver jewelry box with several drawers, Sunshine makes it with style that is all his.
1982 to Present
Intricate stampwork, unique items, lamps, spurs, boxes
Cadman, Andy - Cadman, Darrell - Cadman, Donovan - Reeves, Gary
FIRST YEAR MAKING ART:
You grew up in Tohatchi?
Twin Lakes, I went to school and Tohatchi and graduated from high school there in 1983.
So what was your childhood like? Did you play lots of sports?
No sports, I worked. My family told me I needed to work and I had my first job at 13.
What did you do?
I worked at T & R Market after school everyday as a sack boy at the grocery store. After three years there my step-father got me a job at AC Houston Lumber that I liked a lot better.
How about school, did you do good in school?
I was a bad student in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and realized I needed an education and turned it around the last 3 years of high school. I just didn’t try early on.
So you have your job at AC Houston, you like it, what are you doing?
I am the young guy so I am stacking lumber and helping build rafters. After a couple of years Andy started working there.
Andy Cadman, tell me how everyone is related, we get asked all the time?
Andy, Darrell, and Donovan Cadman are full brothers. My full brothers are Gary & Herman, three have passed, and I have three sisters. Andy, Darrell, and Donovan are our half-brothers.
Did all of you make jewelry growing up?
No, when I was 23 years old I moved to Albuquerque and worked at a lumber yard there. During the winters it would get very slow so I wanted to figure out a way to make some extra money. My brother David and brother in-law Darrell Becenti were making jewelry for Eric Bonecutter in Albuquerque and one day I went with them to the shop and started working.
What did you do?
My brother gave me a piece of copper and I made a stamped concho. It was intricate and I knew that I could make nice things from that first piece.
Do you still have that concho?
No, Eric bought the concho as a sample for 25 dollars. After that he would give me work, lots of earrings, that would keep very busy. I must have made thousands of earrings and that is why I don’t like to do them now.
Are you just making pieces for Bonecutter at this time?
Mostly, I would do a few pieces for some other dealers in Albquerque but not much.
Everyone seems to know Sunshine Reeves work, you didn’t get there by making earrings, how did it happen?
My brothers really helped me. They would encourage me and make me do the work until it was good. Gary, Darrell Becenti, and I would work together all the time and that really improved my silversmithing. We made lots of silver and developed our styles. Plus, Sunshine, my name really helped early on because people could remember it and liked it.
Your known for these great boxes, canteens, just different pieces, when did this start?
In the early 1990s I made a buckle box. It just got me interested in seeing if I could make different things, acquire the knowledge on how to work the silver and make the right hinges.
When did people start coming to you to collect this work?
Just kind of happened. I had a guy fly from Phoenix to find me in Albuquerque to make some spurs. He brought the type of spur he wanted with him so I could have the measurements. I made him three pairs and numbered them. He bought them for around $1800 a pair, that was very good money then. I wish that I had numbered all of the spurs I have made, it is about a dozen now.
How about Indian Market, when did you start showing there?
Elizabeth Abeita would let me share a booth with her and Tony Abeita would introduce me to some of his clients that he thought would be interested in my work. In 1990 I had my first booth as a New Artist. In 1997 a won the “Best of Show” with a Cowboy Coffee set and the next year “Best of Class” with a train.
I have seen your trains, those are amazing, where did your first train end up?
Gertrude Zachary purchased the train and has it for sale in her shop. She is a great lady and always nice to deal with.
Today the industry has lots of Japanese interest, when did you first start dealing with Japanese customers?
Around 1998 a Japanese dealer came around with an American translator and made some orders, his shop was Gods Trading. He would come back a couple times a year and make some orders each visit. Pretty soon lots of Japanese customers were coming around.
You and Gary were invited to Japan, how was that?
Visiting Japan was such a great experience. We would do some demonstrations and teach some simple silversmithing techniques. The rest of the time we were shown around the Country. If I lived somewhere else it would be Japan.
What did you like about it so much?
Everybody was so welcoming and appreciative that you had come to visit. Also, it didn’t seem like culture shock because the Navajo and Japanese look similar so you didn’t feel out of place. People came up to us all the time and would talk Japanese, thinking we were Japanese.
That is cool, so what is next for you?
Just to keep making the different pieces and keeping up with my orders. I have been blessed and just want to keep making pieces that people want to collect and wear.