Telling stories through jewelry
By Frances Madeson
Special to the Times
Though she will use it occasionally for accents, the Maidu part of jewelry maker Liz Wallace does not happily work with gold because of her ancestors’ horrific experiences during the Gold Rush when bounties of 25 cents were put on the heads of Native children and women.
But the Diné part of her is very much attracted to working with sterling silver.
“We took the skill of our colonizers and made it our own, which enabled us to stay home on the rez and self determine,” she explained to the 60 attendees gathered at The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center on Feb. 11 for the “Fire, Stone & Brilliance” conversation with female jewelers.
“Silver can do so many things, it works so beautifully; once you understand the properties of sterling, it’s a wonderful material.”
Wallace is not only informed about her materials, but about the purposes of jewelry in Diné culture.
“Because Navajos were nomadic, jewelry was a way of wearing their wealth as they moved around. It also can have an amuletic function beyond adornment, offering protection or enhancing fertility,” she explained.
She sees each piece of jewelry as a story.
“I love telling stories about what we’ve been through as Native people, and what we have to offer the world,” she said.