Bennie Ration, extraordinary Navajo silversmith and artist

Bennie Ration

One of the greatest contemporary Native American jewelry silversmiths of our time, award-winning Bennie Ration has a distinct three dimensional style with geometric patterns figuring prominently in his pieces. Using overlay to highlight and accent his designs, Bennie Ration creates unique pieces using the finest materials. His pieces are recognized all over the world as some of the finest silverwork. Bennie was born in March of 1955 to Francis and John Ration of the Canoncito Navajo reservation in New Mexico. His father, John, began teaching Bennie the art of silversmithing in grade school. From age 11, Bennie was a talented artist.

Bennie ration developed a unique look to his pieces which include overlay, exceptional stones, three dimensional kachina figures, animals, feathers and other designs.

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Fox Mountain Turquoise Pendant with Overlay Collar Necklace by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

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Lizard Pin Pendant by Bennie RationNPP452-lizard-turq-ration-1

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Turtle Pin Pendant by Bennie Ration

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Natural Persian Turquoise Maiden Ring by Bennie Ration

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What can you tell me about this Lloyd Bicenti Storyteller Belt?

Hi Paula,
I recently purchased a storyteller belt by Lloyd Bicenti.  It has 8 rectangular sections plus the buckle. I would like to know what the story is for this specific belt, but would also like to know if there is a source that one could go to about different story belts and bracelets.
Thank you,
Arthur
story belt001 story belt002 story belt003Hello Arthur,

Your beautiful belt depicts Kachinas, the eagle kachina and the antelope kachina to name just a few that are masterfully represented on the belt.

Kachinas represent the forces of nature, human, animal, plant, and act as intermediaries between the world of humans and the gods. Kachinas play an important part in the seasonal ceremonies of the Hopi, which encompass generations of passed-on knowledge and tradition, and has become the subject of a number of books. The simplified description here is meant only as an introduction.

A kachina has three aspects. The supernatural being as it exists in the minds of the Hopis; the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit; and the dolls that are made in the likeness of the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit.

Traditionally, kachina dolls are created by Hopi or Zuni artists. Your belt is made by a Navajo silversmith.

There are many good books written about kachinas – one of the books I show below talks about 266 different kachinas, often with subtle differences between them.  To find out which kachinas are represented on your belt, I’d suggest some online or library research.

We have a very few kachinas on our website (click on the last photo) but there are websites that devote many pages to describing them.

scan0007 scan0009Best of luck with your research and enjoy that gorgeous work of art !

Paula

To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here
http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

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Mudhead Kachina Santa Cowboy Pendant with ARTI hallmark

Hi Paula,
I have a rather unique necklace signed Arti in sterling and was wondering if you have heard of the artist. Made around 1997.

Carole

photo-1photo2Hi Carole,

I have no idea but I do LOVE it !!!

The boots with spurs, the candy cane, the detail of the general store with a mudhead kachina head !! Wow, what a detailed and unique piece.

Maybe another reader will recognize the hallmark, the superb work and bizarre subject matter.

KD43-mudhead-1Paula

Miniature Kachinas are back……….

To those of you asking for the Miniature Hand Made Cottonwood Root Kachinas, we just received a new family of them from Loretta Multine.

 

Antique Totem Necklace from 1968

Hi Paula,

When i was 10, in 1968 my mom and i took an across country road trip for the summer and stayed all over out west. I bought this necklace, which is like a 5 inch totem  w/ turquoise & coral inlaid in silver  both sides are ornate & i just came across it again in my moms old cedar chest. I scanned pics of it and know nothing about. could you tell me about it and or if its valuable. Please it has all handmade silver beads round and long ones and the totems nose is even turquoise-its very unusual thats why i got it, when i was little but mom took it away and hid it from me cause i played with it! I got it back now.

Vonda

Hi Vonda,

Even though the front photo is terribly out of focus, I posting both here in case someone has seen something like this.

Here’s what I can tell you. What you call the back side, the bird-like creature made of chip inlay has features of a peyote bird or water bird and also an eagle kachina.

Sterling Silver Eagle Dancer Kachina Pendant by Bennie Ration, Navajo

The front side – the nose or beak is certainly an interesting feature of the kachina.

I wouldn’t venture a guess on its value because of the photo quality and not knowing if it is sterling silver, real turquoise etc. The main value is to you because of its provenance – the memories, the story with the piece.

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Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

Paula,
I wondered why in your web store you describe some Indian animal carvings and jewelry pieces as fetishes and others amulets or totems. Are they all the same thing? – Stuart

Stuart,
The terms fetish, amulet, totem and talisman are often used interchangeably to describe an object that provides good fortune and protects from evil. The exact meaning of any of these terms depend on the culture and location in which it is used. Briefly, here is how I see them:

Talisman

Alaskan Thunderbird Talisman by David Audette from Sitka, Alaska

A talisman is an object that is considered to possess supernatural or magical powers and is used especially to avert evils, disease, or death. A talisman is typically engraved or cut with figures or characters, constellations, planets, or other heavenly signs. It is often worn as an amulet or charm. From the Greek word “telein”, which means “to initiate into the mysteries”. The word talisman is often used synonymous with amulet.

Amulet

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Lucky Horseshoe Amulet by Navajo artist Wilbur Muskett Jr.

An amulet is a protecting charm – any object worn to bring good luck and to ward off evil, illness, and harm from supernatural powers and from other people. Amulets are typically carvings, stones (especially with naturally occurring holes), plants (such as sage, 4-leaf clover, shamrock), coins, and jewelry (crosses, horseshoes, gemstones).

Totem

Horse Totem on Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

A totem is an object that symbolizes a person’s or a tribe’s animal guide. This could be a totem pole, an emblem or a small figurine or carving. Native American tradition holds that different animal guides come in and out of a person’s life depending on the direction that person is headed and the challenges he faces. A totem animal is the one animal that acts as the main guardian spirit and is with a person for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Traditionally, it is the totem animal, such as an eagle, wolf, bear, horse or dragonfly, that finds the person, not the other way around.

Fetish

Bear Fetish by Zuni artist Emery Eriacho

A fetish is a sacred object used in religious ceremonies, for spiritual awakening and to communicate with and direct supernatural powers. A fetish can provide protection, promote healing and ensure success in ventures such as hunting or farming. A Native American fetish is most often a carving, usually of an animal, that has some sort of power, and is sometimes decorated with stones, shells, and feathers. A carving without power is merely a carving. A person’s own beliefs determine the difference between a fetish and a carving.

So, whether an object is a talisman, totem, amulet or fetish is up to you. Just as the beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, so the power of an object is in the belief of the seer or wearer.

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Native American Hopi Kachina – Racer Snake

Miniature Kachina - Racer Snake by Loretta Multine

Racer Snake will be in one place one second and in another place a fraction of a second later, much like the slender racer snake that lives in the desert.

The Racer Snake is a guardian at the Bean Dance and the Day Dance. He watches over the ceremonies, patrols the dances and guards the dancers.

A kachina has three aspects. The supernatural being as it exists in the minds of the Hopis; the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit; and the dolls that are made in the likeness of the masked impersonator of the supernatural spirit.

Kachinas represent the forces of nature, human, animal, plant, and act as intermediaries between the world of humans and the gods. Kachinas play an important part in the seasonal ceremonies of the Hopi, which encompass generations of passed-on knowledge and tradition, and has become the subject of a number of books. The simplified description of the this individual kachina doll here is meant only as an introduction.

Small kachinas (dolls) are given to children to introduce the child to what each of the kachinas look like.

Traditionally, kachina dolls are created by Hopi or Zuni artists

Loretta Multine is 1/2 Hopi Tobacco Clan and 1/2 Navajo Tachinii, “Red strike in water” and born for the Honeycomb Clan. She learned kachina carving in 1983 from her husband, who learned the craft from his grandfather. Loretta has been carving kachinas for over 25 years. She uses the root of the cottonwood tree for her creations.

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