Sometimes dreams have wings. And with vision, hard work and commitment, sometimes dreams become reality. Mathew Shepardson’s dream is now reality for the artists of the Turquoise Skies Co-Op. Tskies Co-Op was formed by belief in a vision, commitment of time, resources and effort to making that vision real, and the amazing artists who are now part of the ongoing story.
Laying the groundwork for this vision began a few years ago. Turquoise Skies founder Mathew Shepardson wanted a place where Native artists would have the equipment, workspace and supplies to create handcrafted jewelry. He also wanted a place where they could sell their work and make a living at it. The Co-Op is now a non-profit that fills those goals.
Today there are eleven artist members: Janice Tenorio, the president; John Aguilar; Jessyca Ruth; Marion Lovato; Devin Edison; Andrew Pacheco; Langston Thompson; Jaymus Perry; Adam Fiero; and Sutero and Mabel Chavez. These are the artists who create many of the beautiful pieces found in the gallery.
Each has gone through the process of filling out the application and meeting with the group to see if it’s a good fit for them. As Janice puts it, “we’re most importantly a family”. That attitude creates a bond of trust and appreciation that makes the Co-Op a supportive environment. Members pay a small monthly fee and for that they have access to tools, stamps and workspace. The fee also allows them to sell their work through the gallery.
The support between the artists has been fundamental to the group’s success. As Devin Edison puts it, “here everyone inspires each other to try things out and see if they can do it.” Jessyca Ruth simply sees it as “fun”. She says the camaraderie makes it hard to go home some days. It’s a great reward when they see how others are excited by what they’re doing. Janice says she’s always running into people who want to know more about the Co-Op. She encourages anyone who wants to find out about them to come by the gallery.
There are long-term goals for the Co-Op, mainly in the area of education. The artists know that many of the skills they possess aren’t available to young Natives who might want to learn them. So, they want to offer those young people a place where they can learn from artists who’ve been crafting jewelry for years. As Janice Tenorio puts it, “I want us to be here when any Natives need a place to come and create beauty.” That sounds like a fitting goal for the vision of the Tskies Artist Co-Op.