NCAP Apprentice 2018/19 (Silversmith)
I was only seeking cultural knowledge to back my weaving when I first joined the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program in 2017. The program required that I select an emphasis area and at the time I wasn’t looking to expand my artistic ability past weaving. But I also recognized that silversmithing was an option in the program. A small moment of self-doubt, much like when I first filled out the application for NCAP went through my mind. As I contemplated adding silversmithing as an emphasis area, I asked myself, “was this going to worth my time away from my loom, friends and family?” The possibilities of “what if?” were at first negative - "what if it takes away from my weaving? what if I am not good enough?" I signed up anyway for my silversmithing classes with Wilson Aronilth and looking back on that decision...my :what ifs" have become “what if I had not?”
Every class, mentor and event that NCAP included only strengthened my understanding of K'é, which is both a Navajo philosophy and Navajo skill. Those moments of self-doubt are no longer signs of weakness but great turning points where life changing decisions are made.
By the end of the program, my weaving did not suffer - I received the Legacy of a Master Weaver award for my stripped blanket at the 2018 NCAP Exhibit. I took a gambled with that rug - another area of self doubt - my decision of reviving older styles of weaving. And guess what....my gamble selecting a second emphasis area paid off. Starting with sheet of 3x6" sterling silver plate during the cohort I received a ribbon for a simple split shank bracelet. They were recognized by established silversmiths and weavers as great examples of Navajo Art even though I didn’t feel like they were. To me, they were just small aberrations in the cosmos that is Human existence.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m now an expert at trudging past the small pauses of why? NCAP did that. The Program gave me the ability to plan and work independently while developing relationships that strengthen Navajo culture. I find myself doing activities outside my comfort zone with a Certificate of Navajo Cultural Arts in hand. I’m doing this while also continuing to weave full time for Native American art Shows and being a caregiving to my father. Life didn't stop me from applying and receiving a NCAP Paid Apprenticeship. Through that gamble I was given the opportunity to learn from Lyndon Tsosie, a world renowned Navajo Silversmith and owner of the House of Stamps in Gallup. Little did I know at the time that his advice would have life altering affirmations of the path NCAP put me on.
“You have to earn your chops” and “believe in your work as you design it, not as the experts defines it” Those are the central lessons I learned from Lyndon as we both concentrated on the 61stHeard Museum Guild Indian market and Art show. During my time with Lyndon, I asked about older techniques and styles of Navajo Jewelry and Lyndon responded with a trove of knowledge and experiences that I have yet to utilize personally. But I have learned that with the simplest tools, great art can be created, nurtured and shown to hold its beauty among others styles.
Another moment of self-doubt - Submission time to the Heard. I was fully prepared to defend my work. I had three weaving pieces to submit with one sliver bracelet- A total of 4 pieces but the limit was 3. For a split second, I wanted to switch out my weakest weaving for my bracelet as the other two weavings were made for the expected standards of Navajo textiles. My weakest piece was an experiment and broke almost every rule of the standard of Navajo weavings. A split second later, I walked out with my bracelet and I left my atypical, experimental weaving to be juried.
What if I had NOT! That experiment - that piece that I thought had the weakest possibility of placing - Won best of Show at the 61st Heard Museum Guild Indian market and Art show. I brought home ribbons and an empty bracelet case. Even a half done bracelet that wasn’t buffed sold! I urged the client to wait until I had polished the edges with a rock making a comfortable hand formed bracelet for them. Now I understand having integrity in one’s art even if it’s different because if you work at making it the best it can be it will support you and someone will find it beautiful. I’m am excited to see what happens next because... what if I had NOT?!
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Silversmith)
Ya’ateeh, My name is Irvina Chee. Women Empowerment nishli’, Passion Ba’ shischiin, Resilient Dashicheii’, Empathy dashinali’. Shi Ne’hema dee’naasha’. Those are my “clans” that helped me identify my brand for a Workshop we did with Mr. VanDeever as a part of the Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP). My emphasis in the NCAP program is Silversmithing.
One semester down in the program and I have learned so much more that just how to silversmith. The program is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had in a college setting. Unique and special in all its teachings not just in the emphasis you choose. Day one in the NCAP program started out with a butchering demonstration that all of our bellies appreciated! It was not only a great way to get to know my fellow cohort members, but it also showed us how the NCAP staff works together, how they collaborate with other organizations, and how the cultural arts doesn't just start in the classroom in this program.
Within the silversmith cohort, I have met some very special people! Within the silversmith cohort, I have found a tool to further beautify my heart, mind and surroundings. And within the cohort, I learned what peace of mind can produce. In your hands, solid and ready to adorn. Our first semester, our instructor Anthony Goldtooth had us perfecting our stamp work and finding our own individual styles. He shared stories of his own path to becoming an artisan himself and how he is following in his father’s footsteps, Tony Goldtooth, whom is a Master Silversmith. Those were by far, my favorite stories. Every class was a different teaching on technique and metal manipulation. Personally, I find the art very therapeutic and adaptive to me and a hammer. The beauty left behind, after some buffing and polishing of course, is holisticly satisfying. I absolutely fell in love with it.
I look forward to next semester and to learning new techniques on how to work with metals and stones. I am very excited to soak up everything that the program has to offer in the near future, as some artisans have decided to do all the programs (which you can do too!). I hear there is a Shoe Game we will be attending to learn how Navajo business systems starts with this game. There is also mentioning of field trips to Trading Posts, Museums, and Galleries too. I find it so amazing that no place else on Ni’himá can you get these teachings than at Diné College. I also must say It also does not hurt to have Tsaile provide the appropriate backdrop for such an experience. The campus and the land are beautiful year round.
Thank you very much for the knowledge and opportunity to live my dream. Again my name is Irvina Chee, I am from Marble Canyon Az. Ta”neeszahnii nishli’, Kinlichii’nii’ bashishchiin, Kinyaa’aanii dashicheii, Ashiihi dashnali’. Ahe’hee!
Brandon R. Dinae
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Basket Maker, Moccasin Maker, Silversmith)
Yá'át'ééh t'áá ánółtso. Doone'é nishłínígíí éí Bit'ahnii dóó Hooghan Łání bá shíshchíín. Tł'ógí Táchíi'nii dashicheii dóó Kinłichíi'nii dashinálí. 'Akot'éego diné nishłį́ dóó Tsé Digóní keehasht'į́. Béésh łigai atsidí dóó kéłchí ayiilaa dóó ts'aa' ayiilaa baa da’ííníshta'. Brandon Dinae yinishyé.
(Hello everyone. I am from the Many-Folded-Arms-People clan born for the Many-Hogan-Peopleclan. My maternal grandfather is from the Browned-Banged-Weaver-People clan and my paternal grandfather is from the Red-House-Peopleclan. I am Navajo and I live in Mitten Rock, NM. I am studing Silversmithing, Moccasin Making, and Basketry as part of this year's Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Cohort. My name is Brandon Dinae)
I’ve wanted to learn to make baskets for years and the NCAP has given me the chance to learn from individuals who have been making baskets for years. In the Fall, in addition to our basket making class with Thomas Yellowhair as our instructor, we have also learned about baskets and basket making in our NIS129 Navajo Cultural Arts Materials and Resource class. As a cohort, we were instructed on harvesting K'į́į́' (sumac) for our Tóshjeeh (water jug) project. This meant jumping in a van and actually going on a hunt. We got to meet NCAP alumni, Waycee Harvey, who is also a basket maker. He accompanied our cohort on the trip to teach us how to find sumac and split it.
I learned a lot of things that day... especially about pollen. Little did I know that K'į́į́' has a very potent reaction on some of its hunters. The pollen for the sumac can induce allergic-like symptoms and, it turns out, I was not immune. For me, this was strange because I’m not allergic to anything - at least not anything that I know of. During gathering, my nose insisted on dripping and I didn’t know why I was sneezing profusely. After we gathered what we needed, Waycee showed us how to spit the sumac. While getting used to the taste of the sumac branches our workshop leader informed the class that our reaction to the plant was caused from pollen of the K'į́į́' Bi'áád (female sumac). Thanks, Teach 😂! Now I know what sumac pollen feels like.
The trip was a success and I had picked enough K'į́į́' for the weaving portion of my project. Once we got home, I worked on splitting and gathering jeeh (piñon sap). In class, I learned from Thomas Yellowhair how to sew the jug, attach handles, and cover the piece with jeeh, making it water proof.
I am extremely excited for spring and learning to weave the ts'aa (ceremonial basket).
NCAC Emerging Artisan 2018/19 (Weaver)
I am a weaver in this year Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. My cohort member is Tamerra Martin and our instructor is Ilene Naegle. We weave together at the Window Rock Diné College Branch on Wednesday afternoons. It has been great working with these ladies - but through the NCAP, I was able to learn a little more about the cultural arts - specifically silversmithing. Therefore, I would say that my favorite NCAP activity during the Fall 2018 semester (besides going to weave at the Heard Museum) was working with silver and natural stones in our NIS129 Materials and Resource Class.
Most of the people that I know who do silverwork, work in their homes whenever they can. Their homes usually have electricity where the buffering is done with electricity. At one time every thing was done by manual labor. Up to now, it seemed like silversmithing was a costly hobby with a costly initial investment. It takes time, money, and labor to produce quality art pieces. That's why I was excited when one of our workshops was on silver bead making.
In the workshop, Dr. Christine Ami presented on types of metal (copper, brass, silver, gold), different gauges, and variations of the natural stones. She even mentioned how coins were originally used by Navajos for silversmithing. Dr. Ami had some high quality handmade- jewelry pieces that her husband had made. She gave us tips about buying materials and selling the art pieces. I don't think such advice is clearly given to new artists so freely.
At the end of the Dr. Ami's presentation, the former 2017/2018 Miss Navajo, Crystal Littleben did a hands on workshop. Miss Littleben was very helpful and attentive. She worked with us on cutting, stamping, soldering, and buffing of the silver beads. We started with copper and then moved into silver once we got an understanding of the process. I know everyone had a memorable day at this workshop because it was fun and interacting. At the end of the day, we produced an art piece. Thank you both, Dr. Ami and Miss Littleben, for your time, skill, knowledge, patience and everything else too 😄. Now, these two ladies not only know the art work but both are very smart, supportive when working with people.
A posting by Christine M. Ami, Grant Manager
Call me sentimental but I want to make an old school mixtape – you know … where you wait by the radio with a blank cassette tape loaded, hoping that the radio DJ plays your favorite songs and praying that your finger reflexes can hit the record button before too much of the song’s intro is cut off. On my mixtape I want Adele’s “Send My Love”, Jennie Rivera’s “La Chacalosa”, Justin Timerlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, and Diisigner’s “Panda” to play, so that I may make a gift, a mixtape, for our 2016 Emerging Artisans who just completed their Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. Each song has a unique reference to one of these Emerging Artisans and together - I think this mixtape might just serve as the NCAP soundtrack for this year!
But first, let’s rewind to December 2015…..
The Center for Diné Studies (CDS) had the framework for a potentially amazing Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program – the curriculum was set, syllabi were drafted, instructors had been selected, and I had recently stepped up as the NCAP grant manager.
And then in January 2016 this happened…..
Ilene Naegle walked into my office
Delia Wauneka picked up an advertisement
Dawayne Bahe called me on my cell phone
Carlon Ami sat down at the registration table
These four students stepped up to test this budding program’s mission statement:
“To enhance and revitalize traditional Navajo cultural arts practices while providing opportunities for Navajo cultural arts knowledge holders and master artisans to share their unique skills in a multigenerational setting.”
In the end – the students’ exit surveys speak for themselves.......
“This has been the most developmental period during my career as a silversmith. I am extremely grateful for this program and the opportunities/knowledge it has provided me. Thank You, a resounding thank you to the NCAP!”
"I am so glad and happy I took the certificate program. I am artistically and culturally more award of Native American and Navajo cultural arts."
"My fellow cohort group were the best group to have experience the time with throughout each semester. We have grown close and I feel like I have related to them as family now."
"This program was so great and I am happy to be part of it. I have big hop that this program will excel with every cohort."