Mike Schmaltz Brings a Dragonfly to Life

Native American pieces that are completely handmade are becoming harder to find.  By NA handmade, I mean made in the USA by a registered Native American using no manufactured elements. Its like cooking from scratch – using whole foods and no canned ingredients.

Jewelry by Algonquin artist Mike Schmaltz is not only handmade but beautiful and unique.

Michael (Poole) Schmaltz started making jewelry full time in 1973. He learned jewelry through making many mistakes and learning what not to do. He picked up some valuable tips by watching a few master Zuni silversmiths who were more than willing to share. He learned the art of hot forging ingots into sheet and wire from the blow by blow description of Tom Burnsides hammering silver that is described in the book The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths by John Adair.

Let’s step inside Mike’s shop and watch him create a coin silver dragonfly pendant from concept to finish.

Photo 1 – The design and dimensions are roughed out on graph paper.

Photo 2 The coin silver ingot is heated to a dull red, then taken to the anvil . When it turns black, it is pounded with a heavy hammer all over all surfaces, then reheated and pounded again. These steps are repeated until the required shape, thickness, and size is reached. It takes a lot of experience to know when to reheat so as to not get a cracked ingot.

To read more about coin silver click here.

What does Coin Silver mean in relation to Native American jewelry ?

 

Photo 3 The sheet is flattened by pounding with a polished faced hammer. Once the sheet is large enough for the project, the design is drawn on the metal.

Photo 4 The stamping is done and the outline of the dragonfly is cut out.

 

Photo 5 The smooth bezels are made to best suit the piece of jewelry. They are set in position and soldered in place. The stones will be cut to fit the bezels.

Photo 6 The edge of the body is refined and silver raindrop accents are added down both sides.

Mike makes all of his wire from ingot, hand drawing the wire through a draw plate.

Photo 7 The wire legs and Shepherd’s Hook are soldered in place.

Photo 8 The back complete with hallmarks

Photo 9 – The front complete and almost ready for stones.

Photo 10 – The dragonfly is antiqued with liver of sulphur which is then removed from the high spots with steel wool.

Photo 11 Now it is time to choose the stones. A few test ovals were drawn on this beautiful Chinese turquoise but it was determined that in small pieces this stone would be too dark.

Photo 12 – The Morenci stones have more bright color and variation so were chosen for this piece.

Photo 13 – The eyes are made by grinding spots out of the turquoise head and cutting jet to fit.

Photo 14 – Each stone is cut to fit a bezel and set one at a time with a little sawdust cushion underneath the stone to help prevent future cracking of the stone.

Photo 15 – And the finished dragonfly pendant. Ready to be hung from a strand of beads.

Mike’s jewelry speaks for itself – it is genuinely beautiful.

Thank you Mike for your photos and comments for this article.

Paula

Charles Loloma Badger Paw Pendant

When this piece arrived in an estate lot several years ago, I fell in love with it immediately – purely for its design and symbolism. I didn’t even look at the back – just thought it was an extraordinary piece.

Then I turned it over…..and………thought………..could it be?

I started googling and soon had a strong feeling this could be a piece by Hopi legend Charles Loloma.

So I wrote to the niece of Charles Loloma, Verma Nequatewa.

Sonwai is the artistic name used by Verma Nequatewa. Verma began working with her uncle, the late Charles Loloma, in the mid-1960’s and continued working with him until his studio closed in the early 1990’s. At that time, she opened her own studio and has been continuing his teachings through her own jewelry.

Here is the reply I received from Bob Rhodes in response to my photos and email to Verma : “The pendant has a tufa-cast back and inlay of turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral and ironwood. It is difficult to see the detail in the photo, so I may have missed something.
The piece represents what Charles called a “Badger Hand.” Charles was Badger clan and this is his concept of a combination of badger paw and human hand. It was most likely made at the Loloma Studio at Hotevilla, AZ in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. At that time he often did not differentiate between turquoise from different mines. He had a wash basin that he put all sorts of turquoise in, then picked pieces out for different colors and shapes. He did only use natural, not treated, turquoise, so some of the stones will “mature” or change color as they are exposed to light, air and skin oils. What you have is a very representational piece of Loloma jewelry of that time period. ”

Well I got goose bumps and thanked them both so much for the thoughtful and detailed reply.

They appreciated the photos as they are collecting as many as they can of Charles Loloma’s pieces.

Charles Loloma (1921-1991) was an active Hopi artist from 1949-1991. He is one of the most innovative and influential Native American artists of his time. He used many techniques including tufa casting, lost wax casting, stone and wood inlay, and cobblestone.

Although he was also a painter and ceramicist, he is most well known for his jewelry.

This badger paw pendant is an example of the high stone-to-stone inlay he became so well-known for.

According to Loloma himself, “I am not versed in the exact date that I started working in jewelry, but my guess is it was in 1947 when I was a student at Alfred University. I was working in pottery and silver.”

In the mid 1950s Loloma moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and began making jewelry in earnest.

The name Loloma translates to “many beautiful colors” which is certainly evident in his work. He broke from the tradition of solely using turquoise and coral by adding unusual stones of bright color as well as fossilized ivory and imported woods such as iron wood.

Much has been written about Charles Loloma – see Southwestern Indian Jewelry, Crafting New Traditions by Dexter Cirillo.

Paula

Unknown Hallmark on Vintage Claw Pendant

This vintage (perhaps 1960-1980?) claw pendant has all the characteristics of being Navajo made.

It does have a hallmark but I have been unable to connect it to a specific artist.

It is similar to many leaf and feather hallmarks, but none quite like this.

If anyone does know this hallmark, please let me know ! thanks, Paula

Navajo Silversmith Roland Dixson

Navajo silversmith and artist Roland Dixson produces traditional sterling silver pieces with excellent stampwork.

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Characteristics of his style include scalloped edges with deeply domed centers.

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

The stamping is deep, intricate and not repetitive from piece to piece. He also incorporates repousse as evidenced in the photo showing the back of the buckle.

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Repousse is a technique whereby metal is hammered into relief from the reverse side.

From the pieces that have come through our store, it appears that Roland Dixson uses only natural, untreated turquoise. Here is his hallmark.

Roland Dixson hallmark

Roland Dixson hallmark

I don’t know much about this artist so if anyone has any biographical information, I’d love to hear it.

Paula

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Is it bail or bale on Native American pendants?

This is a pet peeve of mine, so I’ve devoting a whole blog post to this one tiny little word.

You feed a BALE of hay to a horse.

 

bale

You feed a BALE to horses.

You use a BAIL to carry a pail of water to horses.

9373.1L.jpg

A PAIL with a BAIL

A BAIL without a PAIL

A BAIL without a PAIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BAIL is a swinging handle on a pail or bucket.

 

 

 

 

 

So does your pendant hang from a swinging bale or bail? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want 60# of scratchy brome hanging around my neck, so its definitely not BALE.

The correct word for a Native American pendant hanger is a BAIL.

A Bail on a Pendant

A Bail on a Pendant

But to make things confusing, bail has some other definitions so here’s one way you can remember those. Watch for the rhyming words.

BAIL is also is what you do when you use a PAIL to remove water from a sinking boat

BAIL is also the cash payment you give to get someone temporarily out of JAIL.

To review…………..

'Bail is denied. Bale of hay also denied.'

 

 Paula

Vintage Native American Brooches and Pins Make a Comeback

A brooch is usually a large decorative piece of jewelry pinned to a sweater or dress to complete and outfit and make a bold statement.

A pin is a smaller, simpler item that can be used in a variety of more subtle ways.

Depending on the design, colors, materials and subject matter, a brooch or pin can define an ensemble and the person wearing it !

For a while, it seemed like brooches got a bad rap – maybe due to the gaudy and clunky costume jewelry brooch that often comes to mind.

But recently both brooches and pins have made a strong comeback in the fashion world. So it is a perfect time to get out your vintage and new Native American pins and use them in all kinds of ways. Here are some ideas from classic to unique and a pin that I think would work for each specific use:

At the center of a neckline

NPP485-sunface-unkestine-1

On a collar

NPN753-AB-bee-yazzie-A

Anywhere on a jacket or coat

NPN781-knifewing-woody-1

On a scarf to adorn and/or hold it in place

PN440-WB-stamped-repousse-multi-AP-1

To keep a blouse or shirt buttoned

PN441-petit-turq-350w

 

On a clutch purse

PN436-WB-sandcast-turq-1

On the strap of a purse or backpack

NPN768-AB-kokopelli-perry-A-1

Anywhere on denim, pockets, lapels, anything goes

NPC702-AB-PP-spiny-brown-A

On the strap of a tank top

NPP452-lizard-turq-ration-1

To draw attention to or away from an area

NPN714-cluster-wilson-1

With a hair scrunchie or headband

P190-OS-PP-turq-hannaweekea-1

On a hat

P326-AB-WB-circle-multi-A

On shoes or boots

PN438-WB-sandcast-bow-turq-1

On a turtleneck

PN411-coral-abalone-1

As a pendant – for this you can use the pin itself to hang onto a necklace or between the beads of a necklace.

NPP436-bowcluster-coral-skeets-1

Or you can you can use a pin to pendant converter to help.

CON4H-850w

What are some other ways to use a pin or brooch?

Paula

What is Birdseye Turquoise?

Birdseye Turquoise is a term that describes turquoise that is somewhat similar to spiderweb turquoise in that it is made of an aggregate of many small nuggets but instead of a dark matrix like spiderweb, Birdseye Turquoise is light blue turquoise with a darker blue turquoise matrix.

NP556-turq-birdseye-kingman-atencio-1

Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Pendant by Navajo silversmith Cecil Atencio

 

The result when the stones are polished or cross cut and polished is that there are many small areas of lighter blue stone encircled by darker blue matrix like a bird’s eye, thus birdseye turquoise. Sometimes it is referred to as “water web” turquoise.

NBT461-turq-lg-jake-1

Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise bracelet by Navajo artist, Albert Jake

 

Although the term refers to turquoise from any mine that looks like this, there are only a handful of mines that produce birdseye turquoise – namely Turquoise Mountain, Kingman, and Morenci. Turquoise Mountain (closed in the late 1980s) is loacated near the Kingman mine in northwestern Arizona.

NS361-kingman-birdseye-ration-A1

Natural Kingman Birdseye Turquoise Bracelet by Navajo artist Bennie Ration

Paula