A posting by Sharon Begay, BUSI Intern
Perhaps the word “work” is not necessarily the correct word to use here. According to Delia, it is more like “family time”. Similar to family dinners, the family gathers and talks to each other about their day happenings while they “work”. I have to say, I give the Wauneka family kudos and respect for turning business into priceless family time. Today it is a challenge to get kids to sit down and talk to you without a phone or other electronic equipment in their hands. Apparently, when you replace smart phones with gauged silver – talking to mom and dad is no longer “work” either.
Delia began learning how to solder from her parents at the young age of 8 years old. From that point on, she learned each step towards becoming the artist she is today. When I spoke with Delia, she shared one key piece of advice told to her by her parents: “It has to have a purpose or a meaning. Money comes and goes, but this … the jewelry … you are making a piece of metal into art, into life.” Once again – Kudos to the Waneuka parental unit! Those words of wisdom has inspired Delia to follow in her family’s traditional style of cluster work but in her own way. She loves to branch out and create her own designs, use distinct metals, and unique stones.
As with all family affairs, she still seeks out her parents’ input and they are more than happy to provide it. Did I mention, that Delia’s 7 year old son, is now learning how to shape the stones? What a great way to instill work ethics into the youth and keeping the family business going into the next generation.
On a creative side, I asked Delia, “How do you decide what you want to make?” She sat back and replied, “It depends on the supplies on hand”. Delia looks at her supplies to see what she can make out of it. The design and shape of the stone, the type of metal it will look great against - copper, red brass or silver. In addition to the materials talking to her, she has to consider, what the customer wants – how will this piece suit the person? Her goal is to make a set of jewelry for her customers that can be treasured and become an heirloom. That I can understand. Sentimental value is priceless.
There are times she works on her own pieces, but when an order comes in, the family is needed to meet the deadline. Delia explained the nuts and bolts of a family jewelry making business - the technical side. First you have to have the raw materials, which includes the metal and stones and combining both. Then you cut, shape, set and solder the silver together, sawing off the unused pieces and filing the rough edges. Next, you cut the stones, mount them, followed by grinding/filing to smooth out the roughness of the stone. This brings you to the final steps, which is setting the stone in the jewelry, buffing and polishing the final product. But her family has a process and she said it takes about 1 ½ to 2 days to finish a piece.
Last but, not least, I wanted to know what Delia’s favorite materials were. Now when I think of traditional Navajo jewelry, my first guess would not be red brass. But for Delia – she loves this metal. Yes, red brass. I wouldn’t have guessed that either. She said it may not be gold or silver, but it still has a great shine when finished. I’m not going to lie – it is beautiful! This picture is an example of her work and use of red brass, Kingman turquoise with a gold metric inlay. This is even more special, as it is the first complete set she made on her own.