One of the nicest people I have met in the last few years is a silversmith named Karl Nataani. Karl is about my age, and lives on the Navajo reservation north of Winslow.
He has been making traditional Navajo jewelry for over 40 years and sold most of his work in Gallup. He spent several years making jewelry for some of the better-known shops in Albuquerque and during recent years, he began selling to better galleries and stores around the country.
It is time-consuming to create hand-crafted jewelry, and Karl's work is available in very few places.
Karl is an amazingly interesting man. He studies politics and keeps up on National and Tribal leaders. He has very definite opinions about them.
He tells stories of the people he has worked with over the years and he is always someone who appreciates a good joke.
Most artists will call when they have something to sell. Karl will sometimes give me a call just to shoot the breeze and exchange ideas. Sometimes we agree and sometimes not, but it is always a pleasure to have the conversation. I have learned a lot about silver smithing, the old traders he used to work with, and his experiences growing up on the reservation.
His work is exceptional, and he is justifiably proud of it. He recently started making some heavy copper bracelets that are beautiful. Copper Indian jewelry has been around for a long time, beginning during the Fred Harvey days at the turn of the century. It was popular because it was inexpensive and a great tourist item for people riding the trains across the West.
Today, people seek it out. Sure, it is still less expensive, but many people believe that copper jewelry helps to take away pain from arthritis. I don’t know if it does or not, but I’ve had a lot of people tell me that over the years. Either way, it is darn good looking and a long way from the thin tourist jewelry of the Fred Harvey era.
His silver jewelry is sometimes sand cast, sometimes made from sheet and wire silver, but always beautifully stamped. His triangle wire bracelets often feature turquoise stones at the ends of the bracelet rather than in the center.
Everything is made with the goal of perfection that this man tries to attain in his life and his work.
It is very special to own a piece of Karl Nataani jewelry.