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Navajo zilver. In de periode van 1850-1860 leerden de Navajos ijzer- en kopersmeedwerk van Spaanse en Mexicaanse smeden. In 1863 werden de Navajos militair verslagen door het Amerikaans leger onder leiding van Kit Carson en werden zij gedeporteerd naar Bosque Redondo in New Mexico. Daar werd het smeedambacht verder ontwikkeld. In 1868 kregen zij toestemming om naar hun moederland terug te keren, waar een aantal van hen zich toelegde op het smeden van zilver. Vele technieken werden toegepast, waaronder het knippen, graveren, hameren, stempelen (embos-sing) en gieten. Dat leidde tot een gevarieerde productie waarbij vooral het smeden van zilveren sieraden vele uitdrukkingsmoge-lijkheden voor Indiaanse kunstenaars bood. Het zilverwerk werd verder verfraaid met halfedelstenen waaronder de veel gebruik-te turkoois, een steen waaraan mystieke kracht wordt toege-kend. Decoratieve en vormelementen van Spaans-Mexicaanse oorsprong werden vaak overgenomen, evenals elementen van Plains Indianen, waaronder het kruis, de zon en bloemmotieven. Halssieraden werden traditioneel reeds gedragen en werden nu van zilver gemaakt. Dat gold ook voor de "jaclas" of oorringen die soms aan halskettin-gen werden bevestigd en tot meer com-plexe sieraden leidde. Rechthoekige en ovale zilveren platen en geknipt en uitgehamerd (zogenaamde "conchas") werden van deco-raties voorzien waarna zij bevestigd werden op leren heuprie-men als decoratie en/of gesp. Navajos begonnen na hun terugkeer op het reservaat te eisen dat zij in zilvergeld werden uitbetaald voor het land dat zij verloren hadden en de diensten die zij aan het gouvern-ment verleenden. Dat gebeurde in Mexicaanse pesos en Amerikaanse dollars die vervol-gens vaak tot sieraden werden verwerkt, meestal met zelf vervaardigde gereedschappen. Toen het gebruik van zilvergeld steeds minder werd, leverden handelaren plakken zilver van een "ounce". Sieraden werden gewaardeerde handelsartikelen zowel binnen de stam als in het ruilverkeer met naburige stammen. Veel Navajos belegden hun geld ook in zilveren sieraden. Dit kapitaal was gemak-kelijk mee te dragen en een uiterlijk teken van rijkdom en prestige. Ook konden de sieraden worden ingewisseld bij de handelsposten op en rond de reservaten waar de zilveren voorwerpen als onderpand of krediet werden aangenomen of als de betaling van westerse goederen. Feitelijke afbetaling van pand vond vaak plaats in de vorm van wol of schapen, waarna de Indianen hun sieraden terug kregen. Binnen sommige families werd op deze wijze een waardevol bezit aan antieke zilveren sieraden in de loop der decennia opgebouwd. De federale regering stelde een tijd lang de noodzakelijke werktuigen voor de zilverbe-werking ter beschikking omdat een aantal Navajos op deze wijze weer in hun eigen onderhoud konden gaan voorzien. Het handwerk werd als huisindustrie uitgeoefend en in vele hogans (Navajo hutten) trof men een aambeeld aan en een tafel met werktuigen van de siersmid. Vaak waren meerdere gezinsleden betrokken bij dit werk. In het algemeen werd de vakkennis van vader op zoon en van oom op neef overgedragen. Zilver werd niet alleen bewerkt, ook werden zilveren sieraden gegoten in met de hand uitgesneden vor-men van vulkanische tufsteen. De handelsposten gingen de zilver- en turquoisevoorziening en de verkoop van werktuigen domineren. Sieraden werden aange-kocht of in krediet omgezet om vervolgens verkocht te worden aan verzamelaars en toeristen die in steeds grotere getale het Zuidwesten bezochten. Op verzoek van eigenaren van handelsposten werden sieraden aan de smaak van blanke klanten aangepast, onder meer door de productie van minder zware sieraden. Aanvankelijk werden sieraden door Indianen op spoorwegstations aan reizi-gers verkocht of aan de vertegenwoordigers van hotels die ook souvenirshops binnen hun muren exploiteerden. Deze markt breidde zich in het begin van de twintigste eeuw snel uit en leidde, zij het op bescheiden schaal, reeds tot deels machina-le productie van zilverwerk. In de bezoekers-centra van natuur-reservaten werden Indiaanse sieraden verkocht onder de garan-tie dat het handwerk betrof, een maatregel van de federale overheid ter bescherming van het traditionele Indiaanse am-bacht. Kort voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog bevorderde de Indian Arts and Crafts Board de vervaar-diging, kwaliteit en verkoop van Indi-aans zilverwerk. Een kwaliteitskeurmerk "U.S. Navajo" werd ingevoerd. De commercialisering van de productie als gevolg van het toerisme leidde na de Tweede Wereldoorlog tot de inrichting van werkplaatsen waar meerdere handwerkslieden zilveren sieraden voor de toeristenmarkt produceerden. Ook werden halffabrikaten machinaal geproduceerd op stempel- en stansmachines waarna verdere bewerking met de hand volgde. Niet-traditionele decoratieve elementen werden opgenomen. Ook werden nieuwe producten in zilver uitgevoerd waarnaar vraag is: tabaks- en sigarettendozen, kammen en briefopeners. Vanwe-ge de hogere opbrengst maakten een aantal Navajo vrouwen de overstap van het weven van dekens naar zilversmeedwerk. De markt voor Indiaanse zilveren sieraden trok in de loop der tijd ook niet-Indiaanse concurrenten aan. Blanke zilversmeden begonnen sieraden te maken in Indiaanse stijl en in Japan werden Navajo sieraden gecopieerd en geëxporteerd. Daarnaast bleef echter ook traditioneel en modern handwerk voortbestaan, vooral als gevolg van de vraag naar kwaliteitsproducten door rijke klan-ten en verzamelaars, alsmede door de instelling van jaarlijkse prijzen door instellingen, vaak musea, voor de mooiste sieraden. Indiaanse kunstenaars experimenteren met nieuwe vormen, materialen en technieken en maken objecten die deels in antropologische en kunsthistorische musea en particuliere verzamelingen terecht komen. Grondslag voor de vervaardiging van traditionele zilveren sieraden door de Navajos is het begrip "hozhro", vaak vertaald als "schoonheid", dat in hun levensfilosofie een centrale plaats inneemt. Het is niet alleen een esthetische dimensie maar vooral een inhoudelijke in de zin dat het concept de betekenis heeft van harmonie, vruchtbaarheid, leven, gezond-heid, samenwerking en geluk, kortom, alles wat goed is. De kleuren van de toegepaste halfstenen hebben ook symbolische betekenis en worden geassocieerd met de vier windrichtingen. Navajos trachten een evenwicht te bereiken tussen het in het sieraad verwerkt zilver en turkoois en maken mede daardoor robuust uitziende sieraden. De datering van Navajo sieraden is moeilijk omdat typen een grote mate van continuïteit kennen en stempels vaak generaties lang worden gebruikt en binnen families worden geërfd. (PH, 1999) Bracelets Of all Navajo silver jewelry, made the bracelet is perhaps the best known. It is the piece most frequently bought by tourists as a souvenir and perhaps the most worn artifact worn by the Navajo. Around 1846 it is was popular to wear brass rings around the arms; the larger the better. Men as well as woman wore bracelets. Poor indeed was the Navajo who did not have two or three bracelets. Frequently a well-to do Navajo would have a dozen or more bracelets, while he would only own one or two strand of beads or single set of moccasin buttons. It is almost certain that the brass bracelets were made by the Navajo themselves as they required only a length of brass or copper wire and files to produce decorative grooved. Sometimes two or three bands of wire were twisted together In the early days of silversmithing, bracelets were mainly brood and flat. They were made of melted silver and wrought (hammered into) a single piece. As the silver smith attained more knowledge of soldering and stamping many more complicated forms were introduced. Up to that time all the decorative patterns were achieved by using files and cold chisels, or with impressions with steel stamps ( also called dies) These patterns were largely rectangulinear ( straight lines) because of the nature of the tools. Now with the stamps more linear patterns were applied to the metal straight and curved lined could be easily by applied. The designs of the stamps were derived from Mexican workers' tools. The setting of stones began about 1880 with the use of crude hammered bezels. Bracelets more than other forms of jewelry permit the use of large or multiple stones . From the turn of the century turquoise and other stone have been primary importance in bracelet design. For the most part early bracelet design were small and flat and set flush to the bezel. In the 1910-1920s cabochon became prevalent. The use of added decorative elements on bracelets and other articles is a good indicator of the date of the piece. Fine double twisted wire jewelry bracelets were common from the teens on. The twenties an thirties saw elaborate designs of fine twisted and spiral write and in the 1930s bead wire imitation rows often are drops was frequently added. Patterns composes of small segments of bent wire and applique ornaments appeared at about the same time The work of the Zuni smith began to be distinguishable from that of their Navajo teachers by 1910 and by the 1920s the stylistic difference were clear. Setting many small pieces of turquoise in cluster or in rows they used just enough silver to hold the stones together. Often several narrow set bands would be soldered together to make a wide band. The effect is one of delicacy and fragmentation. Yet in later years the Navajo would borrow styles van the Zuni tribes , making it more once very difficult to tell different styles apart The development of casting permitted smiths to create free-form design. Early cast bracelets were composed of delicate thin straight and curvilinear elements in openwork patterns. The stylistic development of Navajo Jewelry Navajo jewelry can be categorize into the following periods: First period : the classic period(1860-1910) Just when the Navajo started to work with silver is still a very debated subject. No written record tells us exactly when Navajo metal smithing began. It is generally assumed, however, that before 185o the Navajo obtained their metal jewelry through trade with the Plains Pueblo and Mexican peoples The incarceration at Bosque Redondo(1864-1868) also influenced the development of Navajo metal smiting. One of the earliest smith are: ATSIDI SANI ( old smith) and ATSIDI CHON( Ugly smith) astsi Sni is generally recognized as the first Navajo to have mastered metal smiting techniques. As a student of Nakai Tsosi( Slender Mexican) worked solely with iron forging bridles and bits for trade. Atsidi SANI persisted in developing his skill during the years of confinement at Bosque Redondo, and Navajo men were indeed given tools for blacksmithing tools. Atside Sani was among several Navajo blacksmiths who ran to forges on the reservation and helped teach the craft to others. A small amount of brass copper and silver jewelry appears to have been made during this period After their release from Bosque Redondo many Navajo continued to work as blacksmiths and some eventually began silverworking. All mid 19th century Navajo silver was hand hammered. American coins, Mexican pesos or ingots were mainly used until the 1920's when various thickness of sheet silver and wire were introduced. Another pioneer in Navajo silverworking was Atsidi Chon or "Ugly smith". He was probably the fist Navajo to create a horse bridle of silver(around 1870) and he also may have fashioned the first concha belt. About 1872 Atsisi chon taught the craft to the Zuni smith Lanyade. In 1880 Atsid Chon or an apprentice named Peshlakai Atsidi(or Slender- Maker- of- sliver) was the first to set a turquoise stone in a silver bezel During the classic period, the form of silver pieces and also their decoration came to have iconography significance. The colors of certain stones, such as turquoise an coral and the use of four decorative elements in a design became associated with the cardinal directions. Double or paired forms suggested the relationship of earth and sky; six elements, for example a row of six tones echoed the six inner forms of the sacred mountains. Outside influence The Navajo obtained materials for metalwork through trade. Long-established trade systems with neighboring tribes and Mexican smiths provide them not only with necessary metals- iron, brass, copper and silver- but also with an array of metal forms and designs. American and Mexican silver coins for instance were used to create the earliest silver jewelry. The Navajo concha, pomegranate( squash blossom button) cross canteen and motifs for bridle decorations were not unique inventions of the Navajo. They were borrowed and reproduced by the Navajo from the Plains and Mexican tribes. Often valuable goods and services were exchanged for silver. For instance, for their iron and silver ornaments, livestock and fruit the Navajo received turquoise and shells from the Pueblos. Tools Despite their crude tools the early silversmiths developed and perfected their limited metal working techniques and often would invent new ones. They acquired tools through trade or ingeniously construct them, fashioning bellows form goatskin and wood, molding forges form stick and mud and chapping crucibles from clay and sherd. They also forged blowpipes from brass wires, chisels and stamps from railroad spikes and nails, and anvils from scarp iron and wood. By 1870 the Navajo had mastered techniques such as annealing and soldering and had learned how to embellish their designs with stones. Most importantly they invented the tufa-casting technique, in which silver coins and slugs were poured from crucibles into intricately carves sandstone moulds. This technique allowed them to produce a wide range of shapes and designs that otherwise would not have been possible. Early silverwork is distinguished by utter simplicity of both composition and technique due partly to the smiths preference and the limit of tools and materials. Most of the Conchas and buttons for instance are round. Bracelets tend to be wide and heavy. Early artisans applied surface design by chasing, filing, and engraving and they attempted to add diversity and three dimensionality by stamping with simple crescent, round and sunburst pattern dies. As new tools and techniques became more accessible and familiar to them the redefined borrowed motifs to reflect their own culture During the classic period (1860-1910), the form of silver pieces and also their decoration came to have iconography significance. The colors of certain stones such as turquoise and coral and the use of four decorative elements in a design became associated with the cardinal directions. Doubled or paired forms suggested the relationship of earth and sky; six elements for example a rows of six stones echoed the six inner form of the sacred mountains. By the early 1900s the availability of new tools and the mastery of new techniques allowed silversmiths a great range of artistic expression in design and form. Applying other techniques of repoussé chasing filing stamping and embossing and stone stetting to create elegant and aesthetic pieces. Second period:, the period of commercialization (1910-1940) The second period in the development of Navajo metal smithing was characterized by economic intervention, exploration and commercialization that almost in some retrospect almost extinguished the native tradition. The white trader's appearance on the reservation during the 1870 had provided a new means of exchange and communication. As the traditional system of trade gradually shifted in the direction of external economy. The Navajo's bargaining position became dependent on the trader's cash flow and line of credit and on supply and demand of the outside market. When the demand for wool, sheep, jewelry and textile declined elsewhere, so did the prices traders offered for the Navajo goods and livestock. The result was a diminished cash flow for their trader and a decreasing line of credit for the Navajo consumer. Moreover the rising commercial tourist trade demanded inexpensive Indian-made curios and by 1915 cities such Albuquerque, Gallup, Flagstaff and other cities along the Santa Fe Railroad had become bustling centers of commerce and trade in the Indian arts. Local hotels and company such as the Fred Harvey Company, Maisel and Sun-Bell catered to the growing tourist markets furnished native artisans with an array of new tools, material and techniques. Although in the past increased access to tools and materials had inspired silversmith to cultivate Navajo design and techniques, during this period commercialization an economic exploitation discouraged authentic Navajo expression. Cast work for instance disappeared almost entirely;hammering takes less time. Smiths, who were usually paid by ounces of silver made up, naturally used the quickest methods. Beauty of workmanship counted for nothing, so they crafted their product to the needs of the trader. Some vendors did offer bonuses for good work, but they were few. The need for financial security forced, however, native artisans to accept work in commercial jewelry businesses that mass produced curios for tourist. Native craftsmen for coerced into adapting non traditional motives ( swastikas, bows and arrows, thunderbirds) and non traditional forms( boxes, letter openers ashtrays, combs and beetle pins. These bench pieces are characterized by their redundant form, repetitive design and unrestrained decoration. Thinning the silver destroyed the traditional regard for proportion and simplicity gave way to the lower standards of mass production, resulting in era of technically and artistically inferior silverware. From 1900-1920, as more people journeyed across the continent by train, a cheap, lightweight ring or bracelet with a stone or two was a favorite souvenir. It became indeed a stereotype of the Southwestern Indian. Yet as the tourists industry dwindled during the depression years, silver production diminished an the metal working tradition was nearly lost. Silversmithing was not the only aspect of Navajo life adversely affected by economic conditions. A scarcity of jobs on the reservation , combined with the reduction of sheep herds forced by the government, imperiled the very nature of the traditional Navajo culture and economy. More than ever, bother personal and newly fashioned jewelry as used as collateral at the trading post so the Navajo could purchase the requisite blankets and food as more an more Navajo locked the means to redeem their pawned jewelry. Third period: the period of modernization (1940- present) By the 1930, the technology for making jewelry changed rapidly, in part due to the availability of electricity. Hand turned grinding and buffing wheels were replaced by electrically driven equipment. Additional fine lapidary equipment and jewelry tools, many imported form Europe allowed the Zuni tribe to do even more precise inlay and mosaic work more quickly. After WWII the refineries shipped silver to jewelry supply houses in Gallup, Albuquerque, Scottsdale, Flagstaff and other mercantile centers. Sheet silver and wire in many different gauges purchases at rendered the practice of hammering out slugs and drawing by hand obsolete. To these same supply stores, machine shaped and polished turquoise was shipped from mines all over Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Whereas the jewelry made prior to 1945 was most part sold to tourists at trading posts ands shops in the southwest, increasingly after 1945 jewelry ash trays tableware cigarette boxes were sold through sales men hire by wholesale traders and earlier in distant cities from the reservation. Since the 1960s southwestern jewelry has become fashionable all over the United States and has even reached shops in Europe and Japan. In the years following WWII, the Navajo enjoyed a wider of range of educational opportunities. They requested and received classroom instruction in Navajo art, culture and history and Navajo arisen and participated in the variety of programs at the Wingage Guild,(1930-1940). For instance well-known silversmiths were employed to teach the craft to youngsters. Even today ,schools still encourages excellence in design and craftsman. Contemporary Navajo smith are more individualistic in their approach and may apply traditional designs with western techniques Economics of the craft At the end of the nineteenth century silversmithing had spread throughout the southwestern tribes. It became very fashionable to wear silver jewelry in abundance on ceremonial and special occasions, mixing it with beads of turquoise shell and coral. In the early days of silversmithing it was difficult if not impossible to get the metal out of its ores. Most silver came from the Navajos in the form of coins that they received in trade or by raiding neighboring tribes Silver like coral had become more valuable to trade than sheep and horses, it was considered a hard commodity ( as opposed to a "soft" commodities such as livestock) At a time when the Navajo just learned the craft, from the Mexicans for instance, the price of making a silver ring was one sheep. A Concha belt was worth at least 20 sheep. Later on silver was also used to barter or as item to pawn at local trading posts. The pawn system was a type of credit whereby a Navajo could leave his jewelry as security against his purchases. In a cash-poor society this form of exchange allowed the Navajo to weather the lean months before the harvest or the sheering of sheep earned him enough money to clear his debt. It was understood that an individual could redeem his jewelry for ceremonial occasions and it would be returned afterward to remain his bond until his debts were paid. Often the jewelry would stay at the trading post for years and was displayed on racks behind the counter Later regulations (1936) were passed specifying the length of time a trader had to keep the jewelry before it was legal to release it for outside sale, at which point it became "Dead pawn. The more lavish pawn pieces were particularly bought by many collectors and museum curators and tourists. The term "Old pawn" generally refers to the jewelry made before 1900.
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