Isaac Coriz is a Mosaic stone inlay Santo Domingo Jewelry artist known for his traditional thunderbird design. In this video he brings us into his home and introduces is art, and shares with us his philosophy of his work.
My Name is Isaac Coriz, I’m from the Santo Domingo Pueblo, 37 years old. To make a transition into jewelry, that was a big question for me. Very Hard. I was a fire fighter before then, carpentry was my main deal, and then firefighting. When you transition over, you are giving up a paycheck, give up hours, giving up all that you have learned over all the years that you’ve been apart of something, the thing that you choose after high school, your career. Mine was carpentry.
So here I am, 2015, im an artist and its been great. There have been ups and downs, I rely on the market very, very, very much! Lately it has been tough. Silver prices went up a couple of times. The reason I started with my jewelry is because I am a part of this big family that has a lot of history doing jewelry, mosaic inlay in particular but also silver sand cast.
One day I asked my mom “where should I start from?” It was a serious question,you know. Sometimes people don’t take you seriously, especially moms, and she said “here, start from here”, And she gave me a thunderbird design(the one in the photograph). This little guy has gone, a long way, a long way for me. It’s fed me, its fed my kids. When I first started on it, it didn’t look like this. My pieces were so bold that it looked like a kindergarten had designed it. That’s the magic of jewelry, you get better at it as you go along.
So, she gave be this design and among other things she gave me her skills. I started working on it everyday. It entails looking for material, finding the best material. You have to start from scratch with your rough. Once you acquire your rough you really have to look at it and see what’s inside it. Then you have you have to put yourself inside and literally your hands go on the material. Then you begin to cut it, you begin to shape it, you begin to see it. Once all those things come together it becomes a feeling of “Oh my god.” Its like taking apart a radio and trying to put it back together.
So after I do all the pieces, I make all the cuts , and make all the shapes then I still, as an artist, have to put it on the canvas to create something. With my creation is my contemporary side and my traditional side. So I put them both together and then my family design comes above it, This creates a strong surrounding which then I can make my own path and do my own way of making jewelry. Versus being repetitious, making the same thing and relying on the same design everyday.
With me, I do the thunderbirds and that is what I am known for. I try to make each one different and unique so that each piece speaks to the person differently rather than it being a process of me going through the line. Each piece is unique in its character. That’s my foundation. I try not to copy, I do not copy anybody, only my mother because I have her permission. We share a signature. The signature of a hand and the signature of the corn design, that’s our family traits or trademark. When I ask my mom now she is really impressed when I show her this or show her that. I try to ask her different things and she is really encouraging because she has seen how far I have gone.
Once you make a design, once it’s out there, once it is finished and all polished. Then you still have the task of taking it out there, presenting it, speaking for it and making sure it finds a good home. Also making sure the person connects with the piece. Its like if I were to build a house with a tile floor, I have to have my customers connect with my work because then I feel like my time is well spent. Sometimes there are ups and downs, there’s people, there’s different opinions, there is a lot of jewelry out there in a big jewelry market. It creates competition. A lot of people are looking at your work. Its hard to be competitive, you have these great names, and here I am, I’m a carpenter, I’m a family man, I’m a tribal member. I try my best and that’s what I think pushes my pieces. I try to stay inventive, I try to stay new.
This is a new piece that I came up with, it’s called “windows to the past.” What it is, is a black jet doorway and a iron wood header. Around it are the bricks that are used to form the home. Its like you are inside with the candles lit looking out the doorway so you are looking out the night. This is something that I have dedicated to the ones from the past like a memorial day. Without them they wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. So I picture myself and then I picture them. Here I am with my nice cutters and my nice grinders and think back then, with no electricity. They had a stone, they wet the stone and they graduated each piece that way. With various stone grades, maybe four grades define that final polish. In honor of them, this is what I have created and come up with. Windows to the past.