Repousse

What is repousse?

A method of embossing metal by stamping and hammering a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.

Here is an excerpt from Indian Jewelry Making by Oscar T. Branson that shows the process.

Below are some examples of the repousse technique used by Native American jewelers.

One of the most classic uses of the repousse techniques is on ketohs (bowguards).

Ketoh (bowguard) by Navajo artist Daniel Martinez

View the slide show for other uses of repousse on ketohs. (Read more about ketohs on my previous post.)

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Sterling Silver Repousse Buckle by Floyd Arviso

Sterling Silver Repousse Cross by Robert Joe, Navajo

Orange Spiny Oyster and Satin Finish Sterling bumble bee pin by Tim Yazzie

    

A vintage NOS (New Old Stock) pin marked AP Sterling

The technique was used by Bell Trader’s craftsmen in the Fred Harvey era such as this copper cuff bracelet.

Read more about the Fred Harvey era in my previous post.


View the slide show below to see examples of Navajo barrettes that feature repousse designs.

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Paula

Zuni Artist Don Dewa

Zuni artist Don Dewa has been actively making his spectacular inlay jewelry since the 1970s.

He has used several hallmarks:
DON C DEWA
DON DEWA ZUNI NM
DON DEWA CUSTOM MADE JEWELRY ZUNI NM STERLING with a sunface (see example below)

 

When he he collaborates with his wife, Velma E. Dewa, they sign D & V DEWA

He is noted for his beautiful inlay and most notably his spinner bracelets. A spinner, in this case, is a rotating sunface that has different inlay on each side.  See the photos.

Don Dewa spinner pendant

Don Dewa spinner bracelet

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Click to see a spinner bracelet by Don Dewa

 

From American Indian Jewelry by Gregory Schaaf

Paula

Zuni Artists Martin and Esther Panteah

Martin and Esther Panteah have worked together on their jewelry since 1973. Martin does the stone work and both Martin and Esther work on the silver. They specialize in both stone-on-stone inlay and channel inlay.

Their hallmark is M T PANTEAH and ZUNI

Here is an example of their work. This exquisite Antelope Kachina bracelet was likely made in the 1970s. It is 1 3/4″ wide all around and weighs 117 grams. Made from Mother of Pearl, Turquoise, Coral, Acoma Jet and sterling silver. The rounded edges are a signature finishing technique of Martin’s and a very difficult one to do so well.

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From Zuni the Art and the People

From Who’s Who in Zuni Jewelry

Paula

What is a Ketoh, Bowguard (Bow Guard) or Wrist Guard?

 

When shooting a bow, depending on the bow but more importantly, the anatomy, musculature and skill of the archer, it is possible for the bow string to contact the inside of the arm that is holding the bow.

Examples of various archers to illustrate the above point.

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When the bow string contacts the inside of the arm, it results in “string slap”. Here are some examples of the after effects of “string slap”. The location of the injury will vary depending on the person and the bow.

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To protect the inner arm from string slap, arms guards can be used. They can be full length or partial. Partial arm guards are usually centered on the inner forearm (bow guard) or at the wrist (wrist guard).

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Native Americans were skilled with their bows but with the frequent use for hunting and protection, in all types of weather, in variety of positions and when fatigued, it is easy to see why bow guards and wrist guards were used. At first they were just wide strips of the heaviest hide leather. Later other stiff materials such as metal were added.

Navajo began making bowguards are early as 1895; some say earlier.  The Navajo bowguard is called a ketoh. It consists of a metal plate affixed to a leather wrist or arm piece.

The metal plate is either wrought or cast.

A wrought piece is one that has been made from metal either cold (no heat) or using a fire (forge) and hand tools. The term wought is most often used to describe the shaping, altering and molding of various metals using a hammer. In the case of Navajo silver work, this often includes stamping and repousse work. (Repousse is a method of forming a pattern on metal by stamping, hammering or pressing a design from the back to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief surface on the front.)

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern wrought pieces.

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A cast piece is one that has been made using a mold and molten metal. Early cast pieces were sand cast. Today they are usually tufa cast. Read more about casting in my previous post Native American Cast Jewelry.

Indian Silverwork of the Southwest, Illustrated Volume One Harry P. Mera

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See the slide show below for examples of modern cast pieces.

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Following are some more historical examples of bow guards from this book.

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Today decorated ketohs and Plains beaded wrist guards are mainly worn for ceremonial and social occasions, including dancing at pow wows. See the slide show below for examples of modern beaded Lakota wrist guards.

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There has been a recent surge in popularity of bow guards as a jewelry item including smaller ketohs for women. See the photo group below for examples of womens’ ketohs.

Following is a slide show that that show the various ways ketohs can be worn. The sky is the limit as to where you position your ketoh and how you tie it on.

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Paula

What is a Slave Bracelet and is it Native American?

The term slave bracelet refers to a style of jewelry that has a chain or other attachment from the bracelet to one or more finger rings. Commonly there is a central piece (island or hand connector) between the ring and bracelet that rests on the back of the hand. 

 

This fashion originated in Africa and is associated with India – harems, belly dancers and the like. The design was likely adopted by Native Americans for tourists after the bracelets became popular in the 1920s American flapper culture.

In spite of the negative connotation of the word slave and its various meanings, the style continues to be popular and has no other name that I am aware of.

Paula

 

Old Bee Stamp on Vintage Navajo Jewelry

This bracelet, likely from 1920s- 1940s (per some learned colleagues) has a distinctive bee stamp on it.

This stamp has been linked to some very old jewelry but so far I have not been able to pin down who might have made this stamp or who used it.

If you have any information on the bee stamp, I’d love to know.

Thanks, Paula

NATIVE AMERICAN WISDOM

 

American Indian Commandments
Sacred Instructions Given By The Creator To Native People At The Time Of Creation

Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
Remain close to the Great Spirit.
Show great respect for your fellow beings.
Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
Do what you know to be right.
Look after the well being of mind and body.
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
Be truthful and honest at all times.
Take full responsibility for your actions.

Navajo Pendant – First People

Native Code of Ethics
1. Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good things the Creator has given you and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. Seek for the things that will benefit others (everyone).

Zuni Man

2. Respect: Respect means “To feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something; to consider the well being of, or to treat someone or something with deference or courtesy”. Showing respect is a basic law of life.

Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times. Special respect should be given to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and Community Leaders.
No person should be made to feel “put down” by you; avoid hurting other hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially Sacred Objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.

Respect the privacy of every person, never intrude on a person’s quiet moment or personal space.

Never walk between people that are conversing.

Lakota Stick

Never interrupt people who are conversing.

Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of Elders, strangers or others to whom special respect is due.

Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where Elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).

Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.

Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her.

Navajo beaded bracelets – sacred animal world.

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Show deep respect for the beliefs and religion of others.

Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless. Listen with your heart.

Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Once you give an idea to a council meeting it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people. Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if those ideas are quite different from the ones you have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the Spark of Truth.

Chief’s Pipe

3. Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.

4. Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.

5. Always treat your guests with honor and consideration. Give of your best food, your best blankets, the best part of your house, and your best service to your guests.

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Sterling Silver Navajo Cup

6. The hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honor of one is the honor of all.

7. Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family.

8. All the races and tribes in the world are like the different colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children of the Creator they must all be respected.

9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, and the world is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created. Do not fill yourself with your own affairs and forget your most important talks. True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.

10. Observe moderation and balance in all things.

11. Know those things that lead to your well-being, and those things that lead to your destruction.

12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.

Navajo Pin Pendant

This article is a reprint from the “Inter-Tribal Times” – October 1994

+++++++++++++

Love of the Land
The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth.
Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest upon the earth, and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew.
The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. This is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly.
He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.
– Chief Luther Standing Bear –
Teton Sioux, Born 1868

Lakota Buffalo Stick

Native American Prayer
Oh, Great Spirit
Whose voice I hear in the winds,
And whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me, I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty
and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things your have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have
hidden in every leaf and rock.

Zuni Maiden

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my Spirit may come to you without shame.

– Chief Yellow Lark –
Lakota –

Lakota Doll

What is Life
What is Life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time.
It is the little shadow
which runs across the grass
and loses itself in the Sunset.
– Crowfoot –
Blackfoot Indian

Lakota Ledger Art

 

By Chief Seattle
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone,
Man would die from
a great loneliness of the spirit.
For whatever happens to the beasts
soon happens to man.”

Mother Earth Turtle Lakota Sage Bag

The Teaching of Tecumseh
Live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long
and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger,if in a lonely place
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Zuni Warrior Maiden

Paula