Heard @ the Heard 2011: Pottery Innovator Harrison Begay, Jr.

Award-winning Diné (Navajo) potter Harrison Begay, Jr. does amazing work. His skill lies in creating pots with interesting shapes that are deeply incised and polished. In addition to being a master polisher, Begay is highly skilled at ensuring that the cuts in his work are consistent throughout the piece. For those who don’t know about Pueblo pottery, Santa Clara pots are hand-coiled, incised with the designs, and then coated with a red clay slip (liquid clay). Just before the slip dries, the artist will take river stones to polish the pot. Pit-firing completes the process, which, in the case of Santa Clara pots, can result in the pot’s black or red color. It all depends on how long the pot is fired.

What makes Begay unique is that he learned traditional Santa Clara style while living in the pueblo, located just north of Santa Fe. Begay, who is considered to be one of the Native American pottery world’s innovators, mostly utilizes designs from Navajo culture. In addition to creating traditional red and black Santa Clara pots, Begay also is making a name for himself with distinctive brown-fired pots. The end result is all in the timing of the firing.

I always speak about the idea of “accessibility” of Native American artists and their art—a very special aspect of living in the American Southwest. With a true zest for life, Begay is very friendly and accessible. An interaction with him is a moment to be cherished for a lifetime.

This year at the 2011 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, I had the opportunity to ask him about his process, his influences and how the economy has affected him and the Native American artist community at large. Watch my interview with this genuine and soft-spoken artist HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Tufa Cast Jewelry Design Duo Denipah-LaRance

When I think of ubertalented and genuinely nice, I think of the Denipah-LaRancesSteve Wikviya LaRance (from Moenkopi on the Hopi Reservation) and Marian Denipah (Diné–Navajo and Tewa–San Juan Pueblo Ohkay Owingeh) are the husband and wife jewelry design team that specializes in Tufa cast jewelry.  Tufa stone, a soft volcanic stone, is carved and used to create a cast for silver or gold with a truly distinctive look.  Denipah and LaRance both started making tufa cast jewelry more than 15 years ago and have become two of the most recognizable faces on the Native American art show circuit.
From dragonflies to crosses to corn, rain and water symbols, Denipah and LaRance create gorgeous works in silver and gold embellished with quality stones in traditional and contemporary styles.  While the recession has impacted their business, the artists are weathering the economic storm by using social media to market their work to collectors. They have also been going international in terms of where they show their work, participating in shows around the world in Japan, Germany and British Columbia.   With rising silver and gold prices also impacting their sales and ability to make a great deal of pieces, the Flagstaff, Arizona-based designers have decided to make quality, higher-priced pieces utlizing quality stones to appeal to higher-tiered collectors.



Courtesy Cirque du Soleil



The Denipah-LaRance household is full of talent. They have provided their children with an environment where they could learn painting, sculpture as well as jewelry-making and the kids have made the most of it.  They also have become accomplished dancers.  Their son Nakotah, age 21,  became a champion hoop dancer and is now a principal dancer in Cirque do Soleil’s Native American-themed Totem, which is currently touring the United States.  He is also the poster child for the show.
Marian Denipah and Steve LaRance took the time from selling at the 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix to talk to me for my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series. 
Watch my video interview with this dynamic design duo HERE:


Heard @ the Heard 2011: Onondaga Artist Ronnie-Leigh Goeman on the Dying Art of Basketry

The reason I write this blog is to talk about art and get to know the people behind it.  It is a very special experience for me because I encounter artists who completely fill me with energy and excitement with what they do and that compels me to share that energy with my readers. 
This year for my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series, I wanted to focus on artists whom you haven’t yet met on Uncle Paulie’s World.  Of course there are the “usual suspects” of Market, and it’s great to see the new pieces they are working on.   But, what about the people working dilligently on that beautiful basket, an art form that in this technology-driven world seems apparently forgotten and unappreciated?  The fun part of the 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market this year was focusing on finding lesser known artists and introducing their work to a wider audience.  Basketry, a bit of an underdog in the Native art scene, is actually fairly vast and diverse.  It is definitely gaining more notoriety as evidenced by Jeremy Frey’s win of “Best in Show” at this year’s Heard show and with SWAIA giving basketry its own category at Indian Market.  There are so many people working to preserve this special art across many Native cultures and I am happy to feature just a few!
Today, on “Heard @ the Heard 2011” is basket maker Ronnie-Leigh Goeman, who hails from the Onondaga Nation in Upstate New York.  Ronnie’s style, warmth, thoughtfulness and passion for her art, especially her drive to continue her work making Black Ash baskets, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Taught by her mentor Mae Big Tree of Akwesane Mohawk Nation, Goeman, who works in the Iroquois style of basketry began making baskets when she was a teenager.   She stopped for a while, but when she met her now husband Stonehorse Goeman (Tonawanda/Seneca), also an artist, she once again picked up the ash and sweetgrass for a collaboration, which they call “Iroquois Basket Sculpture.”  These baskets are adorned with moose hair quills. The finishing touch is the placement of Stonehorse’s detailed miniature carvings atop Goeman’s finely woven pieces. 
The economy has greatly impacted artists’ lives and careers, and Goeman’s is no exception. She talked candidly about how the downturn in the economy has changed her life.  She also talks passionately about her need to continue the tradition of basket making to the end since there are insects from Asia that have been desimating the ash tree population in the United States.  It is predicted that in 50 years there will no longer be ash basket makers because forests can’t be replanted for decades.
Get to know Ronnie-Leigh Goeman by watching a brief interview HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Cody Sanderson and the Sleekest of Hearts

Whether you know Native American jewelry or not, one name that is synonymous with Indian markets around the country is that of Navajo jewelry designer Cody Sanderson.  His designs have graced the pages of national women’s magazines such as O The Oprah Magazine, and the reason is that he is a master of innovation and style. You never really know what he’s going to come up with next.

When Cody walked into the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market’s “Best of Show” gala on Friday evening with his son, who donned his latest creation around his neck, everyone took notice.  “Be Still, My Bleeding Heart,” as Sanderson calls the piece, is hand-fashioned from silver, gold and coral (with inlay work by the talented Zuni designer Colin Coonsis), and is a replica of a real Human heart.  Sanderson said that he has always been fascinated by this part of the body and its beauty and wanted to honor it, especially since he came up with the idea around Valentine’s Day.
Sanderson talked briefly to me for my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series.  See the brilliance of Cody Sanderson HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Lindsey Shakespeare on a Doll Maker’s Dream

“…Life experiences is what I have within my work…”
                                            –Lindsey Shakespeare

Charming describes Mescalero Apache/Kiowa Apache/Comanche and Northern Arapaho doll maker Lindsey Shakespeare, who hails from Mescalero, New Mexico.  Having learned doll making from her relatives growing up in the Three Rivers area, Lindsey went on to earn her B.F.A. in Photography from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico and subsequently an Associates Degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts (I.A.I.A) in Santa Fe.
This seemingly meek and quiet young woman is bursting with talent, which is represented in the Comanche-style PowWow and Apache Crown Dancer soft sculpture dolls she creates.  Her inspirations for designs and colors often come from her dreams she told me.  Travel influences and culturally important mountain symbols are also incorporated in her work.  Her Apache Crown Dancer dolls are affixed to hand-carved and sanded wood bases, which split apart like puzzle pieces so that collectors have a variety of ways to display her work.   The bases are her first task at hand when she begins to create a sculpture.
My favorite part of meeting Lindsey was the traditional formality with which she expresses herself.  She fills you with the true spirit of what it is to be Native American.  More exciting was that this year was the first time she has been able to attend the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market.  The response to her work as I spent time with her at her booth was overwhelming, which undoubtedly bodes good things to come for her.  Enjoy my interview with Lindsey Shakespeare as part of my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series HERE:

Heard @ the Heard 2011: Saginaw-Chippewa Painter Daniel Ramirez & The World’s Longest Native American Painting

Within the Native American art world, forms are constantly changing.  To stay relevant, artists must constantly reinvent themselves.  One artist who is not content to sit by and do the same thing over and over is Saginaw-Chippewa painter Daniel Ramirez.  Ramirez, who has been painting for most of his 57 years, recently began embarking on a new artistic journey with the development of his “World’s Longest Native American Painting,” which had a partial debut in Marin County last month.  The painting, which is comprised of one entire canvas, rather than multiple pieces, will hang one-hundred feet long by eighteen inches high upon completion five years from now. 
The journey to create the “World’s Longest Native American Painting” sprung out of an exhibition of Ramirez’s “Women of the Great Lakes” at  Washington D.C.’s NMAI (The National Museum of the American Indian) in 2006.  This piece hung six feet long by twelve inches high.  As a guide to his piece, Ramirez will create a full-scale drawing of the “World’s Largest Native American Painting.”  With the Native American art enthusiast in mind, Ramirez will have every three feet and every six feet photographed so that he can create giclee prints, which he will personally hand paint.  The end result will be thirty-three panels available for purchase by individuals and collectors.
Ramirez spoke to me about this magnificent work at the 53rd Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix as part of my “Heard @ the Heard 2011” series.  Watch the video HERE:

"Heard @ the Heard 2011" Series Coming Soon to Uncle Paulie’s World

Hi ya’ll!  Well, I can scarcely believe that another year has passed and it is again time for the Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market.  This is the 53rd season and I will be in Phoenix with my handy camera in tow capturing the spirit of the show with interviews of many of the 750 artists in attendance.  You just never know who you might get to know via the Blogosphere!
Last year, my Heard @ the Heard series was very well-received, so I’m doing it again for 2011.    Stay tuned to your computer for blog updates starting this weekend and into next week.  Please comment and let me know what you think.  Thanks for supporting Native American fine art and see YOU at the Heard! 
In the meantime, watch a teaser for the series HERE!