Viewing page 13 of 82

[[2 photos]] 

Maria Martinez, the master potter of San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, is probably the most widely acclaimed Indian artisan today. She and her late husband, Julian, refined the traditional Pueblo kiln process so that it produces a clear-cut matte design against a shining black surface; now a flourishing craft has developed in town. 

served to Sioux members of the Indian Shrine Association. They preserve a vanishing skill in carving varieties of highly ornamented "plains pipe." The best known pipe, the Sioux calumet, has a wooden stem made of ash, two to three feet long, decorated with feathers, beadwork or paint. On some pipes the stone bowl is carved in the form of a buffalo, bear, tomahawk or eagle claw. Pipes sell for prices up to $35; there are also smaller effigies of turtles, bears and buffaloes suitable for paperweights and ashtrays. 

North America's highest expressions of aboriginal art survive in the Southwest. Among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, the Hopi on their high mesas in Arizona, the Navajo, Apache and Papago, the way of life is tied to ancient heritage, culture and religion. Many individuals cling to old rituals, the occult, the secret society; consequently the purest art forms are reserved for their own eyes and use. 

But undoubtedly the Southwest, in a 200-mile arc around Gallup, New Mexico, offers the purchaser the greatest volume and variety of fine Indian crafts. The Hopi alone, in their three principal villages overlooking the Painted Desert, offer more types of significant items than any other Indian group in the country. The best known are the kachina dolls, effigies of the spirit rainmakers, carved of cottonwood root, painted with vegetable and earth colors and embellished with feathers, fur and cloth. Thousands of Japanese-made clay and plastic kachinas are sold to people willing to be duped, yet the real thing can be bought for 85 cents or a dollar. 

Each Hopi village has is specialty. The First Mesa is the source of almost all decorated Hopi pottery, made by hand, without the benefit of a potter's wheel, and fired in the open without a kiln. The most characteristic Hopi pottery is colored red, with intricate black designs—often conventionalizations of feathers or birds—following the contours of the jar or bowl. The Second Mesa produces beautiful baskets, exceedingly strong and durable, made of galleta grass and split yucca-leaf strips. Four colors, usually vegetable dyes of yellow, green, black and rust red, are combined with the cream background of the yucca. The Third Mesa makes wicker baskets, not so durable (nor so expensive), from branches of the wild currant bush and rabbit brush. 

The Hopi were known as crude silverworkers and copyists of other Indians, but the Museum of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff has given them guidance and encouragement. Now Hopi silver has come into its own as a distinctive, desirable type to compare with that of the Zuñi and Navajo. Hopi work is characterized by an "overlay": a pattern of symbolic designs (often adapted from pottery) is cut out of a thin sheet of silver which is then soldered to the main silver bracelet or brooch. The two-layer effect is highlighted by the use of oxidation to darken the base and polishing to brighten the overlay. To be sure you are buying the genuine Hopi article, rather than a machine-made piece, look on the back for the emblem of the Hopi Silversmiths Guild, a sun shield.

The Zuñi, whose pueblo reservation likes south of Gallup, are the undisputed masters of turquoise, the semiprecious stone which their forefathers carved into fetishes of spirits and animals. The use of turquoise for jewelry is far older than the use of silver. It was reserved because it matched in color the deep-blue habitat of the gods; a piece of turquoise would protect its owner from danger and calamity, and turquoise deposits brought prestige to a community.

The Zuñi jewelry of today has evolved over a long period. About 1830 the tribe began to fashion pieces from brass and copper. Later they learned from the Navajo how to work silver and make dies, and began to set turquoise in silver. The "squash blossom" necklace is their classic, with delicately cut stones clustered in blossoms and the crescent "naja" silver pendant hanging beneath them. (Both blossom and Naja derive from ancient sources in the Mediterranean, and came to the Indians by way of Mexico; all the Indian meanings written into them by zealous traders are without foundation.) Quite different from the squash blossom, but equally overwhelming, is the Zuñi inlay, vivid compositions of oxblood coral, green and blue turquoise and gray abalone shell, representing the sun, rainbow and thunderbird. Then there is channel work - narrow silver strips are soldered to form geometrical "channels" or cells, into which the stones are fitted. The Zuñi's most recently developed style, called nugget, combines polished rough-cut turquoise with nuggetlike silver pieces for a highly modern effect.

A large Zuñi belt, bracelet or necklace not only requires courage to wear, but can be expensive. Smaller pins, rings and earrings cost from $2.50 to $11. For the finest turquoise pieces, choose deep or clear colors and well-matched stones. "Spider web" stones, containing a delicate netting of black streaks of other minerals, are popular among the Indians. Deep blue is considered the choice color, but green is attractive too. Stones to be avoided are whitish, flat-colored, or "doctored" turquoise - the last bathed in oil for temporary luster, There is also a tremendous assortment of cleverly made plastic imitations. Some of the finest Zuñi craftsmen are employed at reputable shops in Gallup, where you can see the products made.

Navajo jewelry is different from the Zuñi and Hopi - bolder and more forceful, with the accent of silver rather than turquoise. The Navajo learned their skill from the Mexican silversmiths but had modified designs to express their own artistic feelings - and a Navajo squash blossom, Naja pendant or ornamental bow guard is unmistakable. From sheet silver they make discs called conchas (the Spanish word for shell) for belts, bracelets and bolo ties. But the Navajo also pursue another method, sandcasting, in which the silversmith carves his design, freehand, on a mold of sandstone, then pours in molten silver to make heavy pieces for earrings, bracelets, belts, and buttons.

181
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.