Monthly Archives: May 2015

Native American Jewelry – Navajo Phase 2

Phase 2 or the second period of Navajo silversmithing is generally thought of as being between 1910 -1940. This period is characterized by the exertion of outside forces such as commercialization, exploitation and economics almost dealing a death blow to the Navajo traditions.

The second period is when the economy out side of the reservation became increasingly relevant to the Navajo people. When prices for the products they sold, wool, sheep and jewelry declined in the outside economy it resulted in a lower price being offered to them.

This period was also the beginning of a growing tourism industry. By 1915 Fred Harvey would open hotels in Gallup, Flagstaff, Albuquerque and other cities along the Santa Fe railroad. The growing mass of tourists demanded inexpensive Indian-made curios. New businesses opened in these cities to fulfill the demand and needs of the tourists. These new businesses also provided the Navajo people with new tools, materials and techniques. In the past this access to new tools and materials would have inspired the Navajo smiths to create new designs and techniques but in this period the demands of commercialization and exploitation squashed the expression of authentic designs.

Needing to provide for their families many Navajo silversmiths were forced to go to work in commercial shops. Inside of these shops the Navajo’s were forced to make forms that were outside their norm. Items like boxes, letter openers, ashtrays, combs and more were being made. The benchwork made during this time can be characterized by their redundant forms, repetitive design and substantial decoration.  This jewelry was adorned with non-authentic designs such as bows and arrows, swastikas, thunderbirds and other. The Navajo tradition of simplicity of design and proportion would give way to commercialization and it’s result was technical and artistically inferior silverwork.

Match book cover representing nontraditional items

Match book cover representing nontraditional items

Perhaps the most significant development of this “railroad curio” phase is the misrepresentations that were purposely promoted by the curio industry. False stereotypes were propagated because of the lack of quality and artistic style of the jewelry they were coerced to make. The majority of traditional pieces created during this time period were made by Navajos who lived far away from these commercial centers. These items of jewelry reflect the Navajo’s traditional sense of harmony and order. The number of these traditional pieces made were few as there existed no market for them among the tourists. As the nation entered the depression the market for tourist curios began to dry up and silver production began to diminish. The metalworking tradition among the Navajo was about to face it’s most dire threat to it’s continuity.

OJBR-011c

Non Native Symbols such as Cactus and Stick Figure

Silversmithing was not the only part of Navajo life to be affected by the depression. A lack of employment opportunities along with the governments forced reduction of sheep herds threatened the very nature of Navajo economic tradition and culture. During these hard times Navajo people began to pawn their jewelry more and more frequently than before. As the depression drug on many of the items of jewelry pawned were not redeemed. With an ever growing inventory of dead pawn jewelry the traders began to find a market with tourists, collectors and museums.

The condition of the Navajo economy did not improve until Congress passed the indian Reorganization Act in 1934. This legislation enabled the tribal nations to incorporate, self-govern and to hold their tribal lands as their own. Equally important was the fact that this act essentially ended the acculturation of tribal peoples. A year later in 1935 the Indian Arts and Crafts Board was established to open new markets and to improve the condition of tribal artists in general. Shortly after guilds were established to teach apprentices the traditional designs and techniques of Navajo metal working. Silversmiths also benefited from financial support from public institutions and museums which provided economic feasibility to their chosen career.

 

Pendleton Blankets – 2015

April of each year Pendleton Woolen Mills release their new blanket patterns, this year is no different. Below you will see a few of  the new patterns of Pendleton blankets that we will be carrying .

Pendleton New West by Levi’s Made and Crafted

This blanket is a collaboration between Levi and Pendleton Woolen Mills. The pattern reflects the tension between the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the modern cities located there.

Pendleton Levi Blanket

Pendleton Levi Blanket

Pendleton Full Moon Lodge Blanket

The Pendleton Full Moon Lodge blanket highlights the relationship between Mother Nature, mankind and the creator of the universe whose medicine is love. Based on a painting by Starr Hardridge, the design acknowledges our place between the sun and the full moon. Starr is a Muscogee Creek artist.

Pendleton Full Moon Lodge Blanket

Pendleton Full Moon Lodge Blanket

Pendleton American Treasures Blanket

The Pendleton American Treasures blanket celebrates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Parks Service. The blanket’s design celebrates the majestic and historic places as well as the individuals who have been protecting them for the past century. The American Treasures blanket’s designs reflect the forests, rivers and mountains under the supervision of the dedicated men and women who are the keepers of our natural treasures. Classic geometric patterns remind us of the Native American people who were the first keepers of our land. Napped This blanket is a staff favorite!

2015 Pendleton Blankets - American Treasures Blanket

Pendleton American Treasures Blanket

Pendleton Skywalkers Blanket

The Pendleton Skywalkers blanket was inspired by Art Deco design elements of some of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers. The Chrysler building and the Empire State building are examples of this Art Deco architecture. The Pendleton Skywalker blanket is a salute to the skilled Native American steel workers who built some of the cities most beautiful and famous landmarks including George Washington Bridge and recently the new One World Trade center. Starting in the 1920s during young men from the Mohawk and other you’re a Iroquois tribes raised and riveted steel at dizzying heights above the city. More than six generations of these native steelworkers have become renowned for their courage and agility in helping to raise the New York City skyline. Unnapped

Pendleton Skywalkers Blanket

Pendleton Skywalkers Blanket

The Ribbon Dance is the first ritual that opens up the most sacred Seminole ceremony, the Green Corn Festival. The tribeswomen wear traditional patchwork skirts and tunics and swirl ribbons around the sacred fire to renew the flame for the coming year. This blanket captures the energy and vibrancy of the Ribbon Dance and serves as an homage to traditional patchwork design. This blanket is a collaboration between  and the American Indian College Fund and Pendleton Woolen Mills.

Pendleton AICF Ribbon Dance Blanket

Pendleton AICF Ribbon Dance Blanket

The History of Hopi Jewelry

It is generally believed the establishment of the art of silversmithing in the Hopi tribe began with a trader named Sikyatala. The Zuni and Hopi Pueblos had long before established a trade route whose trail covered a 100 miles. Lanyade a Zuni trader and silversmith was thought to have thought Sikyatala how to make silver in the late 1800’s. Given that the two Pueblos had regular trade relations it would not have seemed strange that the art of smithing would have been shared, especially with Sikyatala who was a member of the Mustard Clan which has Zuni associations.

Sikyatala would go on to teach many Hopi men who then would share their knowledge with others. The style of jewelry created by the Hopi smiths would resemble that being made by the Zuni and Navajo peoples. The production of this style of jewelry would continue until the late 1930’s when a new actor would emerge and initiate a new style of Hopi jewelry.

In 1926 Dr Harold Colton and his wife Mary-Russel Colton moved to Flagstaff, Az from Pennsylvania. Dr Colton was a professor of zoology and Mary was a recognized artist having studied and the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

In 1930 the Coltons established the Hopi Craftsman Exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona. This exhibit was created to showcase Hopi artistry and to promote excellence in their work. Early exhibits mainly featured basketry, weaving and pottery.

In 1938, according to letters written by Mrs. Colton, they turned their attention to Hopi jewelry. In letters to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board she suggested that Hopi jewelry must be absolutely unique and in doing so a unique market could be created just for Hopi jewelry.

With this in mind Mrs. Colton had Virgil Hubert of the MNA research historic pottery and basket designs which could be incorporated in to this new style of Hopi jewelry. The designs required the use of many different smithing techniques including appliqué, cutout, filing and stamping.

Mrs. Colton then sent a letter to 18 Hopi silversmiths inviting them to make jewelry utilizing the new techniques and designs on behalf of the museum. While the new style and designs created some trouble with the smiths, the Hopi Craftsman Exhibit of 1939 did contain jewelry of the new Hopi style.

More of the new style jewelry was created between 1939 and 1941 but the advent of World War II delayed the proliferation of the new Hopi style jewelry.

After the end of World War II Fred Kabotie a Hopi silversmith and art teacher arranged an exhibit of Hop Crafts at Shungopavi. This exhibit was attended by Willard Beatty, Director of Indian Education, who knew of the previous encouragement by the MNA. The following day Beatty met with Kabotie and Paul Saufkie and arranged for the G I training programs to sponsor an 18 month silversmithing course for Hopi veterans. The program would pay for the cost of tools, training and living expenses for the veteran and his family.

Classes began in February of 1947 with Paul Saufkie being hired as the technical instructor and Fred Kabotie was the design instructor. The designs suggested by the MNA were used by the trainers but there was also a slew of new designs taken for the large variety available in Hopi culture.

The techniques used to create the jewelry were varied but one particular method was developed that is now thought of as typical “Hopi” in style. Some of the designs suggested by the MNA were created by appliqué which is when a design is cut out and applied to a base of silver. The piece left over could also be used by overlaying it on another base which resulted in Hopi “overlay” jewelry.