Interview with Ronnie Henry Navajo Silversmith

Ronnie Henry: Hello, my name is Ronnie Henry. I’m a Navajo Silversmith from Crownpoint, NM. I’d like to show you some of my work here.

Mathew Shepardson: We’ve had some of Ronnie’s pieces on our site for a while now. He definitely does higher-end gallery level stuff, natural stones; really good quality work. So, let’s take a look at some of your pieces. You have piece here, can you tell us a little bit about this piece?

R.H.: This is my signature piece. I call this one my “Broken Arrow Necklace.” This one here is 14ct gold inlayed with some diamonds.

M.S.: Wow. 14ct gold? And what kind of turquoise is that?

R.H.: It’s Candelaria turquoise. It’s all natural.

M.S.: And you do all you own cutting of the stones as well?

R.H.: Yes I do. I do hand cut and polish them myself.

This piece is actually Tufa Cast. There are eight different pieces and I used all eight pieces in that one Tufa stone.

M.S.: Do you still have that stone by any chance?

R.H. I do actually, but it’s pretty broken up where you can’t really recognize it.

M.S.: What inspires you? Where are your designs coming from?

R.H. I think most of it does come from my parents. They’ve always different types of work. It’s not always the same, it’s always changing. That’s something I really do like; the change.

It’s funny because sometimes I would get some inspiration from my dreams. I do keep a sketch pad and a pen right next to my bed, so if I still remember it I’ll draw it out. The designs also; it’s pretty much an everyday thing. If I see something that looks really cool I would do that, I don’t mean like I’m copying something. I would see something like maybe scenery, or something that’s happening live. I would incorporate that into what I do.

I would say about 80% percent of what I do is trade with other artists, and that’s really neat. We pretty much take care of ourselves as artists that way.

M.S.: And do you do anything else? It looks like you’re across the board. Rings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces, earrings…

R.H. Oh yeah I forgot. This here is my Bolo. I made this. It’s my first Bolo ever.

M.S.: It’s pretty intricate for being a first.

R.H.: It’s all made from ingot silver. I caste the silver and I hand roll it. I don’t really think of myself as an inlayer but if I think about it most of the stones I do in my rings has always been inlay like that. (like his Bolo)

M.S.: And this is in Ironwood?

R.H.: Yeah this is Ironwood. This is Morenci turquoise and natural coral. And like said it is all Ingot silver including the tips. I use the same stamp in all three pieces there.

M.S.: No pre-fabrication? You don’t buy pre-fabricated plates?

R.H.: No I make my own plates.

M.S.: You make your own wires; you cut your own stones. It’s pretty rare these days to see someone do everything from scratch.

R.H. Well it’s really nice to have friends in the art industry. So you can always find a mentor also. Someone who knows…

Janice Tenorio: …if you don’t have the answer, then you have artists that can help fill in those missing spots for you.

R.H.: Exactly.

That’s another thing too. I really try to stay humble with what not even my work but my attitude too. It kind of helps me to strive to be humble and not to be boastful. It does make me a better artist too.

And I can’t believe that to this day I’m doing something I totally thought I wouldn’t do. But I do love it. I do enjoy it.