Native American Artists Get Inspiration From Elder Generations

Once upon a time we learned everything from our parents or grandparents. Our ethics, perception and even profession were handed down from our ancestors. Family still plays a key role in shaping our morals and culture however it is now days it has less influence on profession. With modern education and career choices in America the apples seem to roll farther and farther from the tree.  Something special about Native American jewelry artists is that most of the time the trade is still traditionally passed down from generation to generation. Jewelry styles and techniques are family secrets that are passed down from elders to their grandchildren.


Isaac Coriz, Where do you get your inspiration?

There are a lot of artists that do Santo Domingo style, and there are plenty of inlayers. As for me I look at the dancers, I look at the singers, I look at people places and things. That’s where I get inspiration for my Santo Domingo design, Among my family and their history. I think it is the history the pushes me to continue the art and keeping the Santo Domingo Style. Making the heishi, that’s where I started from when I was a kid. My Grandma use to sit me down and instead of playing outside I would have a Folgers can full of shell, another empty Folgers can and a drill. So I would take one at a time using water and the drill to make the holes and fill up the empty can with the finished beads. Then I would string them all up and uncle or grandma would take them and graduate them down.

Along the line there was my grandpa Santiago Leo Coriz, navy man, ex welder for shot down aircraft in World War II. When he got home he really took up the silver and took it along way and started silver sandcast. Look him up he is out there. He also did chains, turtles and our family signature hand design. He made vary unique pieces. He would sit me down and have be curl these silver pieces. I would make the chain rings, that’s all he would trust me to do until one day he let me use the tank. Finally I started on my own chains. This one here is from when I was 13-14 years old.

I eventually graduated high school, and went into carpentry. Carpentry really took me along way. Another reason for carpentry was because of my grandfather. We had a big ranch and I found a lot of times that he was always looking for a handyman, someone to fix things. I took it upon myself to do those things, by the time I got back home he had already passed on but it was in honor of him. I think it was that first nail he told me to bend back to use it again is when I wanted to be a carpenter.

That is my history of making jewelry. My grandma first of all making the heishi, my mom, doing the inly for as long as I remember, and my grandfather taking the time to work with me. I was always standing next to him, watching him and devoting my time. I was always watching he move, watching his eyes, watching his hands, his direction, which way he was going. He use to pull out vast amounts of silver. From him I gained a lot of courage. Courage to do and courage to make things happen. Without that it’s very hard! There are people out there with these ideas and they are stuck in a box, they say there are no jobs out there, my grandpa use to always say that there is a job! Don’t ever say you don’t have a job because there is a job right here at home. By that I never give up! Sometimes its hard, you know. There are obstacles in your path you have to overcome them but that’s what makes you, you…

-Isaac Coriz, Kewa Artist