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Orville Tsinnie - December 1999

The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.


The Navajo people are widely recognized among native people for having one of the oldest metalworking traditions on the continent. The continuity of this tradition is beautifully demonstrated by the wonderful jewelry creations of Orville Tsinnie. A steady presence in the world of American Indian art for over twenty- five years, Orville Tsinnie's work is distinctive and stylish.

While decidedly contemporary, Orville's jewelry is strongly rooted in traditional Navajo design. Large bold lines characterize much of his work, which is often embellished with a variety of stamped designs. A smooth, sleek, highly polished dome of silver with an outline of a few stamps is as typical as a heavy silver bracelet covered with deep stamp work for this artist who bridges the divide between traditional and modern themes. The creation of subtly textured handmade beads and the use of unusual and uncommon stones for the settings update a classic squash blossom necklace. One of Orville's favorite materials is fossilized dinosaur bone, which, much like petrified wood, reveals a surprising pattern of colors when polished. He also utilizes a variety of turquoise, jaspers, obsidian, lapis, and sugilite to highlight his silver work.

The level of craftsmanship in Orville's work is superior. His designs are flawlessly executed, his soldering technique very clean, and his finishing and polishing meticulous. This careful attention to detail sets Orville's jewelry apart from many others, and reveals the pride he takes in his work, from a simple understated ring to a lavish and ornate necklace. All of his work is marked with his signature and the name of his hometown, Shiprock, New Mexico. He hallmarks many of his larger pieces with a stamp of the Shiprock formation itself.

Orville Tsinnie is a classic Navajo artist. His work is fresh and innovative, yet reflects the strength and importance of the tradition of which he is a continuing part. This year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, an honor that brings well-deserved recognition to this fine American Indian artist.

                                                              ©The Indian Craft Shop 1999

 

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