One of my favorite silversmiths and people was Harry Morgan. I was fortunate to be able to work with him for many years and when he passed away from complications of diabetes several years ago, I lost a good friend.
He was arguably one of the finest traditional Navajo silversmiths that ever made jewelry. His children all learned the craft and his youngest son, Jacob, is following in his dad’s footsteps as a full-time jeweler.
Harry had a daughter-in-law who became interested in jewelry and for the past twenty years has worked with silver. It has not been an easy road for Selena Warner. She went through a couple of marriages and ended up raising her kids without a lot of help. She lost a daughter at a young age and was always scrambling to make ends meet.
But she never quit. Selena could hit bottom and, with the help of several jewelry dealers like Perry Null, John Hornbeck and Toh-Atin, she would fight her way back. Harry’s son, Greg Pat, would help her with problems she was having in her jewelry making, just as Harry had when he was alive.
A long time ago, when I had only known Selena for a few years, Harry and I were talking about different jewelers and who was coming up and I said, “You know Harry, Selena is doing some really good work.”
“She is learning faster than my sons,” he said.
“Why do you think?” I asked.
He smiled and said, “Because she listens to me!”
It was a good laugh and really, it was only partly true. But Selena continues to move forward in her craft.
Her squash blossom necklaces have always been nice but the Najas (the bottom of the necklace that comes from an old Moorish design) were always made by someone else. They were sand cast, and she didn’t know how to make that style of jewelry.
Last week, she brought up what I think is the most beautiful squash blossom necklace she has ever made. The Naja wasn’t cast. It was pounded out of silver. When I asked her about it, she said she wanted to make something different, and that was all hers. I really like it!
The beads are all handmade, the blossoms are carefully crafted, and the spiny oyster shell is as pretty as any I have seen.
It is just wonderful to see a young woman continue to strive to be a top artist no matter what she has had to overcome.
Harry would be proud of her!