Ron offered his quiet Father’s Day to drive me out across western New Mexico. We exited I-40 heading southwest into National Forest, the expansive jaw dropping vistas seemed to hold open the vast space that led us along on the winding road to the Zuni Pueblo.
We had come to this beautiful remote place to meet a new artist. We pulled up to Jesse’s adobe and I was excited and nervous mixed into one. He welcomed us in and as we sat down at his kitchen table I noticed the freshly clean and organized space of his modest home. Jesse shared with us his hardships, his re-kindling passion for creating the art he loves and the spiritual journey he has come to know.
Jesse told us,
I come from a long line of artists. In fact 80% of our Zuni tribe are artists. When I was ten-years-old instead of being allowed to go out and ride my bike I was asked to help the family. I was taught our family’s craft, the art of jewelry making from my mother and father and grandmother.
I have lived most of my life on the Zuni reservation, all except six years, while I served in the marines, which I earned the honor of a decorated veteran. When I came back from Afghanistan I was in a bad way. I couldn’t relax and let go of what I had experienced there and so I turned to alcohol to help numb myself. I drank in excess and was in a downward spiral for several years. When I hit rock-bottom, it was my grandmother who helped me recover. She encouraged me to get help and I did. Today, I am ten years in sobriety. I then got a job as a Zuni corrections officer and worked my way up to Zuni police officer cadet. At this point in my life I was selected to hold a spiritual commitment for the crow clan. In our tradition elder women make the decision and so my paternal grandmother would have to accept this potential spot for me with a spiritual fraternity for the Zuni tribe. This fraternity of men hold an important responsibility for the spiritual needs of our people. My recovery and hard work led to the invitation. I knew that if I accepted, it would become the biggest commitment of my life and there was no turning back. Also, if my grandmother accepted this fraternity position I had to give up my police department job as it held a conflict of interest. My new role was about creating peace.
It was a scary decision and it would be a new chapter to our lives. Plus I would lose my income. If I took this new spiritual role I would have to use my jewelry art as my sole means of providing for my three children. The decision by my grandmother was made and we accepted the role. I have never looked back. I made it through the rigorous spiritual sacrifices to become part of the mud head spiritual fraternity and now I spend many days of the year fasting and praying. Since this shift, my time and energy are spent with the fraternity, my children and any extra time is spent creating jewelry. It feels like I am living the way I am suppose to be living. My sobriety is a cornerstone for me, it describes the strength and unity of a family.
I feel the positive energy of over-coming adversity is displayed in my design. My bracelet design that Elizabeth was initially drawn to is made of three circular patterns. Elizabeth and I chatted about the way I work from the inside moving outward in a circular motion, I said it feels like a healing, flowering from the inside out. And that, makes me happy.
Elizabeth, I feel the great spirit has brought you to me and I am grateful for the opportunity.
I came to know Jesse from my friend Bronwyn, who owns one of my favorite shops in Santa Fe, KESHI. Bronwyn’s mom was a school teacher for the Zuni tribe when Bronwyn was a little girl. Now a second generation store in Santa Fe, Bronwyn runs the shop and their mission is to support the Zuni tribe. I discovered one of Jesse’s bracelets in KESHI and fell in love with his work. Bronwyn connected us.
Jesse is a Zuni petit point artist, which is a unique technique to the Zuni tribe.
I thought if I wanted to wear his beautiful petit point work on my wrist or finger, you would too. Jesse and I have co-collaborated on The Zuni Collection. I chose some of my favorite stones and we came up with some ideas of how to tap into his skills to create easy-to-wear pieces for you. His silversmith and lapidary skills have developed over decades of time and patience. He cuts from carefully selected raw stone and shapes the stone into a small circular dome which holds its’ form in sterling silver, it is the most patient area tested as a jeweler.
Each piece is marked with Jesse’s Zuni trademark. I feel it is such a beautiful authentic representation of genuine art passed down from the tribe’s generations. And, who couldn’t fall in love with Jesse?
JOIN ME IN SUPPORT
A percentage of proceeds will go to the Zuni tribe through the KESHIFOUNDATION.ORG.
KESHI’s second annual Zuni show, as part of Indian Market, is August 19-20, 2017 in Santa Fe, NM.