What is it I love about the arts and jewelry?
In this culture there is no separation between art, the home, family, friends and spirituality. Historically items were not made as art, but were made to be used, worn and shared. What I love is that they were also made to be beautiful and to last. This concept is inspirational and when the items are placed in their historical context, they tell a story of spirit and survival. When I see a piece of Native American art, I want to know its story.
What do you look for on your buying trips? What speaks to you?
Buying trips have to be flexible and organic. In other words, I have to be willing to change direction in a moment's notice. Remember, I am dealing with artists, not buying from a catalog. And, that can mean a very long drive down a dirt road to meet someone who has some treasures. It also means when I arrive, I need to take the time required to develop a relationship with the artist and perhaps their extended family. But, that said, I look for quality. I look for quality - simple. Not every piece will be museum quality, but I offer work that has been carefully handcrafted with attention to detail. After that my instincts and experience take over.
On you first trip West + on a reservation, how was the experience?
Once again referencing the concept of there being no separation between things, I felt a connection with the land, the people and the arts. I experienced principles such as honesty, humility, generosity and humor. I felt welcome and it was an honor to be included as a friend. My first buying trip in 1985 was so eye opening and I was so naive. I thought you could make several appointments in one day and run from one place to another. I soon learned that doing business with Native people means doing business with friends and that an appointment can turn into a meal, a hike, a drive or an oral history lesson from the family elder which could last all afternoon! Therein lies the blessing.
What lessons have you learned while building your business?
Stay true to who you are. Bring passion to everything you do and surround yourself with people who support and challenge you to be your best. And, finally...evolve! Each day is different and the energy is moving so, while being true to yourself - evolve!
My favorite piece?
It is a piece I inherited. My mother's turquoise ring is the thing I would grab if I was running out of burning building. She loved Native American jewelry, had a heart for their plight and was a huge influence on my career choice. I never get on a plane without that ring! It is a simple Navajo piece made in the 1960's and the most powerful piece of art that I own.
What's the one thing from Native culture that you try to apply?
Harmony and balance. We are all connected, all one family and I have learned that cooperation rather than competition is better for the world. Give of yourself and you will be rewarded generously.
Rules for buying Native American Arts & Crafts
How do you start to collect Native American art or jewelry?
Collecting Native American arts and jewelry begins with your eye and your heart. Because the pieces are handmade, not buying a piece you love may mean you will never see it again.
Here are some tips:
1. Become educated. Learn as much as you can about the arts you love. Read books, ask questions and visit museums. This will help you develop a discerning eye for authenticity and quality.
2. Purchase from reputable businesses and artists. While a small number of artists sell directly to collectors exclusively, much of their success depends on the strong relationships with representatives and galleries who market and promote their work. Everyone collects differently but you must make sure you work with a reputable dealer. Ask for as much information as possible and if they hesitate to guarantee authenticity, best to walk away. A good rule is that if it seems too good to be true, it is probably fake! Another tip is to buy the best you can afford. As you become more seasoned in collecting you will be glad you bought one great piece rather than numerous average pieces that you no longer love.
3. Keep good records of your purchases. In addition to being fun, it helps to track the careers of your artists and the value of your investments. Also, your family will thank you if they ever have to disperse your collection.