Looking Back … Looking Forward
For more than 40 years, the Indian Pueblo Store staff have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.
In celebration of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s 46th anniversary in August, we’re going to take you back in time, visiting some older styles of work – as well as pieces that look like they could be vintage.
Navajo Cluster Style
Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since prehistoric time, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that Navajo and Zuni artisans learned silversmithing from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths. The Navajo soon became known for their use of silver, emphasizing silver-heavy designs with only a few gemstones. Handcrafted by Navajo silversmith Wilbur Muskett, this watch draws upon the legacy of traditional silver and lapidary cluster work. For centuries, artists like Muskett have fashioned gemstones, stone, and shell into lasting jewelry pieces. Featuring circular blue turquoise gemstones inlaid in a sterling silver setting, the watch tips evoke a history and a style that is timeless. If you have an older style watch face, it can be incorporated into this piece.
By the turn of the 20th century, silversmithing was widespread across the Southwest, and Native artists were making more sophisticated pieces like concho belts and squash blossom and naja necklaces. This handcrafted, sterling silver concho necklace and earring set created by Navajo silversmith Harold Joe features beautiful turquoise beads at the center of every concho. Use of traditional repousse and hand-stamping techniques makes this vintage-looking and feeling piece an heirloom that will elevate your Native American jewelry collection.
Vintage Navajo Wedding Basket
Baskets are one of the oldest known forms of Native American art and, today, one of the most valuable and widely collected. In addition to their utilitarian value, baskets were also appreciated for their incredible beauty and skill in basket making was a source of pride for Native communities. Handcrafted by Navajo artists using the traditional colors of red and black atop a natural fiber, the Navajo wedding basket reflects many values of traditional life and is viewed as a map through which the Diné chart their lives. Woven by hand from all-natural plant fibers, this vintage basket carries on an important Navajo legacy that will be cherished by Native American art collectors.
Nevada Turquoise Heishi Necklace
This stunning six-strand necklace handcrafted by Santo Domingo artists Joe E. and Marilyn Pacheco is a breathtaking heirloom necklace that pairs green Nevada turquoise beads along finely cut baby olive beads to create a bold, substantial, and timeless piece. In Santo Domingo Pueblo, bead-making has been a central part of life for centuries. These beads are known as “heishi,” which means “shell” in the Santo Domingo language, Keres. Most heishi beads are rolled into smooth flat discs, but heishi can refer to any small beads that have been made by hand. Heishi may be the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico, and necklaces with similar bead styles have been found in the Ancestral Pueblo (formerly referred to as Anasazi) sites of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. The process is extremely labor intensive, and it can take up to two weeks to make a single strand of heishi beads. First, the shell or gemstone is sliced into strips, then clipped by hand into small squares. These unfinished beads are drilled and strung on a fine wire. Next, the artist turns the string of beads against a stone wheel to make them round, further shaping and smoothing with sandpaper. Finally, the beads are run against a leather belt to achieve a fine polish. Today, fewer and fewer artists are creating their beads by hand, making true handcrafted heishi necklaces an extremely valuable piece for art and jewelry collectors.
Micaceous cooking pot
This remarkable bowl was handcrafted by celebrated Ohkay Owingeh artist Clarence Cruz using traditional clay and firing methods. Created with micaceous clay with a very high mica content that gives the pottery an almost metallic shimmer. This unique pot has beautiful fire clouds throughout, created naturally during the firing process. Clay cooking is an ancient custom worldwide, but mica-rich earth is uniquely well-suited to the task. Mica is extremely durable, conducts heat very evenly, and holds heat long after it’s been removed from the flame. These pots range in color from a lovely orange-peach to almost black. Cruz uses three firing methods – an open firing where the flames are allowed to touch the pots, an enclosed firing where the flames do not touch the pots, and a reduction firing where the pots are turned black.
Mosaic inlay jewelry is a signature style of Santo Domingo jewelers, who create the inlay by attaching tiny gemstone tiles into a shell base, forming unique and colorful patterns. This technique can be traced back to the early forms of jewelry unearthed at Ancient Puebloan sites throughout the Southwest, and many artists model their inlay designs after these early artifacts. With a mixture of color and shape, these dramatic contemporary dangle earrings by Santo Domingo artist Chris Nieto are beautifully handcrafted in mosaic inlay pattern with contrasting colors.
At Indian Pueblo Store, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft. Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer.
At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer.