A favorite artist of just about everyone is Santo Domingo jeweler, Ray Lovato. Over the years, I’ve written several newsletters about him. One of the best newsletters, in my humble opinion, described a great afternoon that I spent with Ray in a Walmart parking lot trading turquoise for jewelry.
Right after it went out, Althea Cajero called me. Her dad is good friends with Ray and she was laughing, telling me how the story was so like him. He is so darned funny and fun to be around!
This is a guy who did three tours in Vietnam, suffered from Agent Orange and has had medical problems his whole life. He never complains.
Right before the Fourth of July, Ray always shows up at the gallery with handmade Pueblo bread and cookies. He is on his way to a show at the Fourth of July Northern Ute Pow Wow at Fort Duchesne, Utah. He sells jewelry and bread and cookies there, then he takes the whole car full of grandkids to Las Vegas where they get a place with a swimming pool and have a ball. He loves his kids and grandkids.He always has a quick wit and a pocket full of funny jokes. The best part of Ray telling you a joke is that he laughs so hard himself.
I was thinking today that when we do stories on him, we always seem to concentrate on his hand-ground turquoise heishi necklaces, which are wonderful. He is one of the only remaining artists from Santo Domingo that still uses natural turquoise.
I have never talked about his hand ground turquoise and shell slab and heishi earrings. If you want to see real, honest to goodness historically based Indian jewelry, it is these earrings.
Old photographs from the late 1800s show Native people wearing slabs of turquoise and shell as earrings. Back then, they were put on the ear using a string, and back when the Anasazi wore them the strings were made with tree bark and bee’s wax.
Today, Ray uses silver earring wires for the earrings, and they look as classy with an evening gown as they do with a t-shirt and a pair of Wranglers!
In Durango we don’t see a lot of suits and evening gowns, but I have seen them in more sophisticated settings! Really, you need to come and visit our town! We can set you up with some cowboy boots, hiking boots or tennis shoes and a pair of Ray’s earrings! We are talking real class!
Seriously, I was talking about Ray with Steve Simpson, the owner of the Twin Rocks Trading Company in Bluff, Utah one day. We both agreed that this man is an American legend. He makes unique and historical jewelry. It’s a lot like him, a little rough on the outside with a beautiful soul!