Johnnie Bia, Jr.
As I look into the Diné holistic components of Navajo silversmithing, I reached out to Master Silversmith, Leonard Gene and Emerging Silversmith, Waycee Harvey for some guidance. Leonard is Tó'aheedli'inii, born for Bit’ahnii, his maternal grandfathers are Ashii'hi, and his paternal grandfathers are Hashk'a'a i Hadzohí. He is originally from Rock Point, AZ. Waycee is Tachinii, born for Kinyaa'áanii, his maternal grandfathers are Todichinii, and paternal grandfathers are Tlaashchii. He is originally from Many Farms, AZ. He is apart of the 2017-2018 NCAP cohort and learning silversmithing from Don Denetdeal and Wilson Aronilth, Jr. I also took advantage of revisiting previous blogs written by former NCAPers, Delia Wauneka and Carlon Ami, to understand how the process of silversmithing makes us holistically unique.
frame, scribe, saw blades, files, acetylene tank, pliers, and creativity. This was the shopping list that was given to Waycee when he first started learning how to silversmith. From that basic tool kit, a silversmith can build up their supplies depending on the specialization they select (or I could also say the specialization that selects them). Specializations can include everything from stamping, overlay, in-lay, lapidary work, sand casting, tufa casting, and so forth.
feeling to the silversmith too - particularly when you finish a project to your liking. Delia also explored this elation in her blog "Wauneka's Meldown." On a NCAP trip to Meltdown Studios, Delia challenged herself to learn different techniques like chemical and electric etching. She also desperately wanted to learn how to make her own beads. It was somewhat of an emotional roller coaster: "I watched as Lauren did her demonstration, yet I struggled with this project and I decided to put it aside. Later on the day, I confronted my own self-doubts and challenged myself to finish one bead. You know what… I did it! I am so proud that now I can say, 'I made my own bead'". Delia explained that her self doubts were over come by her persistence. This is what Leonard must have meant when he reminded me that when you complete a project, it uplifts your spirit and makes you respect yourself for what you have done.
toughness you have to have. Carlon also wrote of this toughness in his blog "Just Take It Apart and Put It Back Together": "Don't let convention limit you. If you can reasonably imagine it, you might be able to build it. If it doesn't work out, you can always melt it down later for casting material." At the end of the process, there is a sense of satisfaction for completing the puzzle and having your ideas all come together. But the mental challenges don't stop there. When your done buffing and publishing, Leonard explained, there is a motivation released that inspires you to make improvements on the next project.
gives you another level of respect about what our culture means. With this understanding, you can have prayers done every now and then to help your work along and to keep you strong so you can continue your work with positive motivations. You can also sing songs while you’re working. It helps to stay connected with our traditional culture and values.
After speaking with Leonard and Waycee, reconnecting with Carlon and Delia's blogs, and sitting in on some of the NCAP silversmithing classes, I can begin to understand how silver work helps an individual’s holistic well-being. There are physical demands when working with silver, sacred stones and minerals but you get energy, stamina, and motivation from them as well. Silversmithing is an emotional journey, bringing joy to you and others when your work is completed, even amidst the self-doubt and frustration during the process. This cultural art helps your mind to focus on the positive, which in turn, helps maintain creativity within your work. Ultimately, silversmithing as a Diné individual evokes a spiritual feeling through the stories and history of how Navajo people have always had silver and the sacred stones. Silversmithing has many benefits for a person who wants to learn. It will give you as much as you want to give to it.
And with that said...
Emerging Artisan, Silversmith, NCAC 16/17
Hello! My name is Jerome Nez and I am a student at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. My clans are Salt Water (Todik’ozhi), born for the Salt People clan (Ashiihnli). My maternal Grandfather is of the Red Running into the Water clan (Tachiinii clan), and My Nalii are of the Honey Combed Rock (Tse’njikini clan). I am a community member of Whippoorwill, Arizona (Navajo Nation). These are my roots and who I am. Although I am carpenter by trade, I decided to add to my bag of tricks through my enrollment with the Navajo Cultural Arts Certificate Program. I am part of the 2016/17 Silversmithing Cohort, preparing for graduation this May! Thus far it has been a great experience and rewarding to be part of NCAP.
Along the way we have made some stops. One place we visited was the Gallup Trading Company. Not only does it have a lot of neat things to buy that are completely old school but also, the building structure of the shop is old-styled and pretty cool in itself. In addition to the jewelry, Gallup Trading Company sells stones. The quantity and quality of turquoise were impressive and the friendly people working there made for a nice, calm stop. We purchase a few stones and then continued our trip but not before our delicious stopover at Diné Grill to get our Mutton and Taco fix.
The next day we started our two day workshop time at Meltdown Studio! We learned, created, laughed, and met some wonderful people. Those couple of days of jewelry making has tied us all together, helping us to form bonds of respect and admiration. While at the studio, Lauren showed us techniques in stamping, hammering, bead making, bezel forming, wire bending, torch usage and overall tips that we could apply to our daily silversmithing practices. We had almost unlimited access to everything in the studio and we could make as much jewelry as we wanted with what was provided - If we only had more time! At Meltdown
What a huge honor it is to be part of NCAP and the teachings that I have learned and experience have helped me to grow. I have noticed that many techniques in Silversmithing seem too advanced and impossible to do at first. But with examination, study and practive, I know it can be done and it is possible. The first step you need is a positive attitude. That positivity will brush off on everything, although a lot of practice is still required. Places like NCAP and Meltdown Studio are excellent starting points.
One piece of advice from me: If you want to add a little bling to your life, you can first practice making jewelry with inexpensive pieces, so that you can get the hang of it. This way you don’t end up ruining your precious stones and metals. That is what I did – and now I am moving on from copper and brass to silvers and stones. You can stop by the 2017 Navajo Cultural Arts Museum Exhibit from April 17-21 to see some of my silverwork! And don't forget to vote on your favorite piece for the community choice award ;)
A posting by Crystal Littleben, NCAP Project Coordinator
You are probably wondering, what is this Littleben you speak of? Well, my name is Crystal Littleben and I am the Project Coordinator for the amazing Navajo Cultural Arts Program (NCAP). While I call two places home, Round Rock and Tuba City, Arizona, I am quickly starting to feel at home with NCAP here in Tsaile as well.
I am of the Red House (Kin Łichíi’nii) clan,
born for the Coyote Pass (Ma’ii Deeshgiizhnii) clan.
My maternal grandfather’s clan is the Bitter Water (Bįįh Bitoo’nii).
My paternal grandfather’s clan is the Under His Cover (Bit’ahnii).
It is mindboggling (in a good way!) to reflect on the little time I have been with NCAP and the amount of growth I gained both professionally and personally!
Growing up, I have always been naturally drawn to my Navajo language, culture, and arts. I am and will always be a lifelong learning of our Navajo language and culture… so, being offered the job as the Project Coordinator for NCAP was a great way to continue my journey of Sa’ah Naagáí Bik’éh Hózhóón.
Amongst the responsibilities of a Project Coordinator, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Weekend Silversmith Workshop led by Mrs. Martha Jackson. I had only been on the job for two weeks but I was ready for some hands on experience.
I have never tried my hand at any sort of silversmithing work. So, when Mrs. Jackson invited me to participate with the workshop, I was completely caught off guard. I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t know the “silversmith” language, and definitely, didn’t know how to use the tools. But if you know me, inexperience won’t stop me!
I have tons of NCAP stories to share with you and I hope you all continue to read our blog. So stay tuned! Follow us on our Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
A posting by Carlon Ami, NCAP Intern
I'm not sure anyone believes me when I tell them that I learned to drive a tractor before learning to drive a vehicle. Either way, this is fact. Also important to this fact is that I learned very early in my tractor use that things break. Now that equipment is not cheap, and you have to learn how to either hide what you break (like my uncles do) or get it fixed. Thankfully, my older brother is a pretty awesome welder.
I don't say this just because he's my brother or because he has saved my butt more times than I can remember but because he taught me a critical lesson once. I was stressed because I somehow bent the support beam of the blade that keeps it perpendicular to the surface of the ground. There was no way that thing could be fixed, I almost just bought a new one. He had me bring it to him, he checked it out, then got to work.
Over the course of a couple hours we laughed, sweated, cursed, and learned. His advice: "Just take it apart and put it back together." Since welding is very closely related to soldering I apply that same concept to jewelry fabrication. How do I make this fit? Is this going to be strong enough? Can I do this? The answer: of course you can.
Don't let convention limit you. If you can reasonably imagine it, you might be able to build it. If it doesn't work out, you can always melt it down later for casting material.