Artist: JewelryDescription: Earrings | Gail Bird (b.1949) & Yazzie Johnson (b.1946)
Left: 18K Gold, Rainbow Moonstone & Watermelon Tourmaline
Right: 18K Gold, Tanzania Sunstone
The internationally acclaimed and award winning American Indian dynamic design duo, Gail Bird (Laguna/Santo Domingo) and Yazzie Johnson (Navajo), who met during their youth, have been executing their innovative and unique talents for well over thirty years at the highest level of artistry and expert craftsmanship. Their work highlights a balanced measure of cultural components, both past and present, as well as enduring modernity. By featuring distinctive varieties of some of the finest gemstones, their style is naturally refined and inimitable.
Gail and Yazzie both studied at the University of California Berkeley as well as the University of Colorado at Boulder and regularly pursue other educational, cultural, historical, vocational and personal interests. Numerous publications, exhibitions and institutions worldwide have featured the storied pair.
Artist: JewelryDescription: Denise Wallace (b.1957) | Fossilized Ivory/Sterling Silver (1988) | 1 ½”h x 1”w
“Technically astounding, aesthetically beautiful and culturally important. These are just some of the ways in which Denise Wallace’s jewelry can be described. Inspired by the stories of her Chugach Aleut ancestors, her unique creations have made her one of the best-known Alaska Native jewelers of our time. (Featured on the left in this image are a pair of Denise’s scrimshawed, fossilized ivory and sterling silver earrings, circa 1988.)
Wallace began her artistic journey as a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late seventies. After graduating, she and her husband Samuel remained in Santa Fe creating and selling work from their studio and gallery for twenty years. In 1999, they moved to the tropics of Hawaii where their collaborations continued until Samuel’s passing in 2010.”
Navajo Belt Buckles
Artist: JewelryDescription: Billy Betoney | Silver/Leather | 2”h x 6”w (lower left)
Unidentifed Silversmith | Silver/Leather | 2”h x 5 ¼”w (upper right)
The lower left belt buckle is a Billy Betoney original masterwork. Billy learned silversmithing during the 1970s from his wife Betty. Perhaps it was the art education he received in his youth that rendered him a natural in this new medium or perhaps it was his instructor. Either way, Billy and Betty are a perfect fit as are their talents.
With experience under his belt, Billy’s designs became more visionary. By utilizing some of the design elements of his mother’s rugs, he would custom cut and form silver strips into the desired shapes he needed. After five unsuccessful vendor entry attempts to Santa Fe Indian Market, a relative shared his booth with Billy in 1989. That very same year he won the prestigious award “Most Creative Design – Any Class.” Thereafter he continued to win various awards consecutively.
Unfortunately, the buckle on the upper right, though artisan hallmark stamped, is the work of an unidentified silversmith.