For about thirty years, the Indian Arts and Crafts Association was a solid force in helping to promote, protect and preserve Native American Arts and Crafts. IACA was made up of dealers, collectors, museums, and artists who worked together to fight the imitation of Native art.
One of the most popular activities of the IACA was the wholesale markets. Before the internet, it was a venue that allowed artists and dealers to work with museum stores, retail shops, and galleries that they would never have been able to meet. Markets also made it easy for shops to come to one place and buy work by artists that they knew was authentic. Markets allowed people like us to take rugs and jewelry made by artists we represented and sell their work to quality stores.
It was a great networking opportunity for everyone that, in many ways, has been replaced by the ease of working through the internet. I miss the board meetings and markets where we all exchanged ideas, got to know each other, and made lifelong friends. That’s not as easy on a computer!
I said it was before the internet became so popular, but one funny thing I remember was when cell phones were first being used. Ray Tracy would wander around the booths talking on his big cell phone. If you haven’t met Ray, he is usually moving fast. And he had to because his phone battery never lasted long enough for his conversations!
One of the coolest people always at the IACA Shows and was honored as Artist of the Year by the association was Orville Tsinnie.
Everybody loved Orville! He and his wife, Darlene, were always surrounded by visitors and customers at their booths.They made beautiful jewelry and always had time for everyone. They lived in Shiprock, where they started a gallery that was a must-stop on any buying trip for shops from North America and Europe.
They liked coming to Durango because I never had to go to Shiprock to buy jewelry. They would call and come up, and, like as not, we’d end up sitting on the floor with jewelry spread out on a Navajo weaving. Customers would walk in, and Orville was always up for a conversation.
He was also a stone addict, one of those guys who would see a great piece of turquoise and had to have it. Much trading went on, and it was the kind of trade where it worked for everyone involved.
Orville didn’t start making jewelry until he visited his sister, who had married a silversmith. He was 27 and was happily working for the tribe, but he made his first piece of jewelry on the visit, and he was hooked.
He was known for his heavy, beautifully stamped silver work, set with great turquoise, coral, lapis, dinosaur bone, or whatever caught his fancy. And he and Darlene also liked working stones into beads and creating unique necklaces.
It’s not the events, like the Ceremonial or Indian Market or the IACA, that you remember. It’s the people you meet at these gatherings. Orville passed unexpectedly in 2017, leaving an empty spot in everyone’s hearts. Darlene is still in Shiprock and visits with her daughters in Arizona. Once in a while, she calls or stops to say hello and makes our day!