As I now believe that I am moving to Santa Fe on Dec. 14, after a whole life and career in NYC, I think of one of my favorite exhibits taking place at the privately run, not-for profit Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.
What do you do when your traditional raw materials are no longer available and you are a skilled and talented craftsperson with years of experience and surrounded by continuing traditions? You reinvent your materials by recycling “junk” and possessions surrounding you.
This is what the jewelry designers at Santa Domingo Pueblo (Kewa) created between 1920’s to the 1950’s in New Mexico. They reinvented their craft and made it more “contemporary”. The Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe, NM explores their jewelry in their current exhibit curated by J. Roderick Moore called – Thunderbird Jewelry of Santa Domingo Pueblo.
The scarcity of materials was caused by turquoise mines taken over by American companies, the turquoise was replaced by mosaics of inlaid and appliquéd inexpensive plastics (multicolored), bones of animals (off-white), LP’s (browns), celluloid (monotone) combs and battery casings (black). The pieces were sold as cheap trinkets for tourists visiting the Southwest. Today, they are collector’s items and worth hundreds of dollars.