Native Jewelry Maker- Norbert Peshlakai, Navajo
Native jewelry maker Norbert Peshlakai's primary emphasis is on delicate texture. Using tiny handmade stamps to
impress intricate designs into sterling silver, Peshlakai can engage as many as ten stamps to form a single design,
or combine stamps to shape twenty designs that give the illusion of forty by simultaneously varying the direction
of the patterns.
Peshlakai is a fourth-generation Navajo silversmith. Unlike generations before him, Peshlakai studied formal
jewelrymaking techniques. He attended Haskell Junior College in Kansas for three-and-one-half years, but
returned to his native New Mexico to a life of metalworking.
His interest in texture has led him to use a variety of techniques to apply different surface treatments to
silver, while accentuating his stamped designs. Sandpaper, emery paper and steel wool might be brushed over the
smooth surface of the silver to alter it. Peshlakai also hammers over rocks or uses needle files to achieve unusual
surface textures. His inclusion of numerous small designs stamped over a shiny silver surface creates a design
rich in texture. Peshlakai's keen sense of humor is apparent in his work. A man's cloth necktie becomes the model
for a substitute full-size, hinged silver tie. Each of the nine segments is stamped with different designs derived
from the Navajo origin stories or the land around Peshlakai's New Mexico home. Turtles represent the beginning
of life, rabbits jump and dragonflies buzz; Cowboy Slim and a steer head decorate the bow. Copyright 2012
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