Marion Lovato grew up making jewelry with her mother in her home in Santo Domingo Pueblo. She was the baby of the family and would sit on the floor while her mother made her heishe necklaces. Her first duty, she says, was to string the cut stones. Later she worked her way up to drilling.
In high school, Marion took jewelry classes to add to her skills. It was the first year the school offered the courses and she learned to solder, setting stones and polishing. Engaging in the beauty of creating a handcrafted piece is as much a part of her own personal history as it is her culture.
Even though her love of jewelry making remained, graduation took her down a different path. Marion entered CNM’s nursing program. With the skills gained there, she became a Certified Nursing Assistant, a job she kept until 2016.
That year brought another change for Marion. She suffered a stroke and the resulting health issues convinced her not to go back to work as a CNA. Marion felt she could no longer handle the stress of that job. So, she went back to making jewelry.
In 2011 and 2012, she had attended Paho Arts in Poaque where she learned sand casting, cuttlefish casting and some techniques for contemporary Native art. As her memory returned, Marion began to re-teach herself the skills she’d acquired before the stroke.
Through the company’s Facebook posts, she learned about Turquoise Skies and their artist co-op. The co-op offered the chance to help with her returning memory. Seeing the other artists at work helped Marion remember her own skills and work on getting them back. As she puts it, her “brain is recharging and it’s a learning process.”
Though the damage to her vision still prevents her from doing the small, tedious work such as heishe, Marion pushes herself to “get out of her comfort zone” and regain her art. Her goal is to develop her casting skills, particularly with wax casting and to work with gold. It’s a daily process of recovery and forward movement, but each day brings Marion both new challenges and greater skill.