My name is Bronson Mitchell. I’m originally from Gallup, NM, and I’ve been living here in Albuquerque for about three years. I’m the sixth generation of my family to do silversmithing. We specialize in Tufa Casting as well as Sand Casting.
Bronson Mitchell –
Growing up, I’d always see my grandpa, he would be sawing stuff, or melting stuff down, but I didn’t think too much about doing it myself. I had always seen that as a child, but then I got into high school and it really started to intrigue me a little bit more because I would see the finished products of what my grandpa could create, and it would just blow my mind. I really just started to develop my own skills in high school a little bit more in high school but really since I graduated, it’s really become a source of income for me. Know I do it full blown, and I really enjoy it. I feel like it lets me have that creative outlet for my mind but also allows me to retain and preserve my culture because it’s something that has been passed down for generations.
Tufa stone, the traditional technique, you go out to various spots of the (Navajo) reservation, or where you know there’s Tufa mines, and then you can mine your stones or rock. This here is a Tufa stone and I cut it to the specifications I wanted. This one here is smaller, so it was made for a ring. So that’s the traditional method of finding stones for Tufa casting as well as sand casting. We do everything from Naja’s to bracelets and Bogards, buckles, earings…any of it, we can cast it.
More info about sand casting and Tufa casting can be found here. ~ https://tskies.com/two-types-of-navajo-silver-cast-work/
What I love most about jewelry creating is how raw it is. You’re taking Earth materials, mining them out of the ground, and you’re using techniques that have been around for so long, and literally creating something out of nothing. But it isn’t nothing, because it already exists, it’s already perfect on its own. You’re like the medium, like the oracle so to speak. Every piece that I’ve done, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with it, but it never fully ended the way I wanted when I started it. There have always been changes that have been done throughout the process that the piece itself really wanted to look that way. It wasn’t me who made it that way, it was itself. I’m a firm believer that I’m just the middle man. This (the ring) has a spirit that has a connection with the Great Spirit and I’m just the one who can put the two together, like the matchmaker. I love that because it’s all raw Earth materials. These will outlast me. How can I leave an impression on this world? It’s this! This is one way I can do it, and I love that. I mean I don’t know my sixth generation grandpa personally, but I do know this is what he did, and I connect with him through that. It’s a very beautiful experience to connect with your ancestors like that, and that to me is really sacred, and so important to keep that traditional aspect alive. The way that technology is moving, you got 3D printing all those sorts of things, which is amazing, but there is a fine line between contemporary and traditional stuff. I think that through Tufa, but also learning new techniques, you have to evolve; that’s the way life is. With my grandpa showing me the old ways of how to Tufa cast and how to sand cast and then learning through friends and other artists I meet in the scene, it’s awesome to me and really makes me look forward to the future, and what I might be able to accomplish, who I’m going to meet, and what’s going to happen with all of our work and art.