“Everyone has their own niche. I can do whatever I want because I’m not looking to fill a niche.” That’s the way George Francis describes his journey as a silversmith. It’s a creative path he’s been following since his father and brother taught him the craft they had learned. For George, the beauty of the work and the simple joy of creativity are the true blessings of the work that he does. Along with the opportunity to pass along what he’s learned, those are the elements he seeks to find in his journey.
To him, most Native American artists fall into one niche or the other. There are those who want to make a name for themselves and have customers choose their work because of their reputation. They work hard to develop not only their skills but their unique style, along with putting effort into advertising and marketing their work. It can set a hectic pace, for, as George says, “they’ve got to keep building that reputation. They can’t be idle or pat themselves on the back.”
There are also those who aren’t so worried about name recognition. They simply want to create their pieces and sell them to people who enjoy wearing them. Their road doesn’t come with fame, but can bring the satisfaction of creating a thing of beauty.
Some artists cling to traditional styles while others seek out new combinations and techniques that blend the ancient with the modern. Innovation is a facet of the industry that George finds satisfying. He says he’s “seen some wonderful combinations of work” and that the changes are great to see. In a market such as the area where he lives, which is home to many Native American artists, it’s good to see that there is still room for those who wish to take what they know and create something unique.
Although his name and the high quality of his work is well-known, it isn’t the fame or the name recognition that’s at the heart of what George seeks. Satisfaction comes to him in simple ways, even through something as seemingly tedious as a repair. As he puts it, “you build a piece, make something creative, then here come the critics. You don’t get the satisfaction from the piece until it’s sold.” A repair, however, brings immediate gratification through restoring a piece to its best condition.
As an artist, he feels there needs to be diversity in his life in order to keep his creativity strong and to keep his life centered. For George, it’s not only the work, but the opportunity for passing along what he’s learned. Teaching reminds him to be open to new ideas, for he says, “when you’re teaching, you’ve got to remember there’s more than one way.” He has, at times, taken on an apprentice. When he does so, it’s with the hope they will grow in their skills and move on to be independent artists. That’s something George Francis can take satisfaction in.