Saturday, March 26, 2011

Old Pawn Native American Handcrafted Jewelry

“Old Pawn” is a designation given to pieces that weren't necessarily left at a pawn shop and never claimed, although it's often the case. There are construction techniques and design styles that will often be labeled as Old Pawn, and these are, more often than not, pieces made before the 1950s.

WWII saw a lot of Native Americans in the armed forces, and when they returned home they brought a plethora of tools with them that changed how jewelry was made. Precision instruments that either took the place of doing things by hand or made it considerably easier to craft works in a more refined way as well as faster. Old techniques were abandoned by many of the Native silversmiths yet others stuck with their methods as tradition played a big role in creating their works of art.

Old Pawn is the most sought after genre of the art form and many artisans are returning to traditional techniques as it gives the jewelry a feel of authenticity that's hard to achieve without getting your hands dirty, so to speak. This Kirk Smith Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace was made sometime in the 1990s and is very traditional in it's design and construction. This set of Earrings by contemporary Navajo artisan Alex Sanchez also pays tribute to Old Pawn jewelry—this is something Sanchez kind of dabbles in--much of his work is quite contemporary, but he does fantastic work when adhering to tradition.

We've acquired some impressive Old Pawn works as of late, great examples of the art form from different southwestern tribes. This Navajo Beaded Necklace with it's amazing turquoise stone and sterling work is hand made right down to the clasp. This Navajo Choker is also handcrafted with each sterling bead being slightly different from the others. It's still on it's original hemp string and the clasp is hand made on this one as well. This set of Navajo Dangle earrings is pretty remarkable; handcrafted sterling beads, the wires connecting the elements are encased in sterling tubes and the ear wires are handcrafted.

Our Bolo Tie collection has grown considerably in the last month with some Old Pawn pieces being acquired. This Navajo Repousse and turquoise bolo is based on concho belt designs from the 1930s and 40s. The handcrafted nature of this piece is undeniable and it's bold design is well executed using primitive tools. Zuni stone to stone inlay relies heavily on the lapidary skills of the artisan and this Old Pawn Zuni bolo tie is a stellar example. Not only was the artisan skilled in the lapidary field but was obviously an accomplished silversmith as well—the sterling lanyard tips are handcrafted specially for this piece. Many Navajo artisans didn't adopt lapidary work right away and the rough turquoise stones on this Navajo shallow shadowbox bolo are held in place with specially hand cut sterling bezels—the look is unique and you just don't see it very often. The sterling lanyard tips are handcrafted on this bolo too, and incorporate a wave design—again, very unique.

Stellar older works are appearing on the website with regularity and I couldn't be more pleased. Having the capacity to represent the Native American art form in it's finest and most traditional genre is what I strive for. Were I to list all the Old Pawn works available on the website, this would turn into a novel. This video features several of our Old Pawn pieces.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More FUN Stuff!!!!

While I'm in the field I find all manner of interesting collectables to add to our Other Interesting Finds category. The category is kind of like my own personal eBay; a place to offer a wide variety of items that are of interest to collectors from many genres.

I've acquired some really fun stuff recently, as well as some high-end collectable pieces.

My personal fave is this set of playing cards featuring works of the pin-up illustrator Vargas of Playboy Magazine fame. His full sized works are collected by many and this whimsical deck of cards is an unusual item from the 1950s--a period in which his notoriety was just starting to take off. 54 cards all featuring miniature versions of some of his early works, one joker with a Vargas Girl and another with a brief history of Vargas.

Native American Baskets are something I'm just starting my studies on, but this fantastic Papago Basket, made of yucca splints is so different than what I've seen, design-wise, that it really spoke to me. It's not an old basket, but it's construction is obviously done by an artisan that knows the art form well and the execution is flawless.

I'd never heard on the Damascene technique which is often used in jewelry making. When it was applied to this wonderful Hotel Desk Bell, on the back of a turtle shell, the results were pretty amazing. If I had a butler, I'd keep this for summoning him.

I simply can't resist rustic Southwestern decor, and when I spotted this immense buffalo skull I had no choice but to acquire it. I had no idea they were so big, and it caused a bit of a problem when trying to fit it into the trunk of my car.

I'm threatening to start a Hairpiece category on the site, as I often find amazing pieces; nice vintage items with tons of character, like this sterling, Navajo Raincloud. What a charming piece. Completely handcrafted, thick and sturdy and very traditionally designed.

I stay real focused when I'm in the field and when something "special" catches my eye, I'm such a "fool for cool" I can't help but grab it up. The Other Interesting Finds category was in the works from day one of website development and I expect it to keep growing.

Rugs, Pottery & Art

We're happy to announce that we've branched out a bit. After hitting the books and talking to galleries and collectors, we've acquired some respectable Rugs, Pottery & Art. The category is in it's infancy, but some of the offering were just to cool to sit on, and we expect the category to grow quickly.

Some of the items offered are in keeping with our promise to offer you the Best of the Southwest and several collectable artisans are represented.

This Vintage Chimayo Rug was made at Trujillo's Weaving Shop, in Chimayo, New Mexico. These guys have been around forever and nothing leaves the shop that isn't top notch.

Santa Clara Pottery is widely collected with a few artisans dominating the field. Stella Chavarria, Gwen Tafoya and Celestina Naranjo create bold Blackware pottery using traditional methods that have been employed for centuries. The works of these talented artisans are highly sought after.

Amado Pena is a world renowned painter and lithographer, and this extremely rare print of "Tomado Agua" is from a limited run of 30 from 1979. It incorporates metallic inks and is one of Pena's early works--a lot more simplistic than his recent offerings. We were lucky to acquire this one; someone was recently offering one on eBay for $1800.

I'm particularly impressed with this lithograph of a pencil drawing depicting a Native American Elder from 1973. The artist is unknown, but wow, what an amazing portrait.

I've enjoyed my studies in these new fields as Native American artisans never cease to intrigue me with their dedication to traditional art forms and their insistence on following methods laid down by their predecessors.