Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sonwai Tribute to Charles Loloma: Height Bracelet

Pictured here is an extraordinarily large 18K gold “Height Bracelet," inlaid with over 200 exotic stones and precious woods by Verma (Sonwai) Nequatewa, circa 2005

Verma Nequatewa (Hopi, b. 1949), also known by her professional name (along with her sister) “Sonwai”, is Charles Loloma's niece, his former studio apprentice, and the inheritor of his business and artistic legacy after his death in 1991. 

This astounding stacked-stone Height Bracelet might very possibly be Verma's finest effort to date in her long career and it took her over a year to complete. Verma made it on commission as a modern-day tribute to Loloma based on one of his most extraordinary designs, a design she took even further with this piece. 

The bracelet features approximately 200 individually set, hand-cut exotic stones and precious woods, including spiderweb and clear Lone Mountain, Nevada turquoise. 

This bracelet has been featured in a number of prominent books and articles on contemporary Native American jewelry. It measures 1 5/8 inches wide, with a 7/8-inch  maximum height, and weighs a hefty 186 grams or 6.56 ounces.

The piece is signed "Sonwai", marked "18K", and is stamped with the Sonwai Hummingbird hallmark on its interior.

"My life and my jewelry have been greatly influenced by two things. The first is by my good fortune to have grown up and to continue to live on the Hopi Reservation. This enables me to witness the grandeur of the landscape on a daily basis and to be involved constantly in the ceremonial activities that are taking place here. The second major influence is that of my uncle, Charles Loloma.

When Charles came back to Hotevilla, I was still in high school. As I watched and listened to him I became interested in helping him and learning art. I was most fortunate to be able to work with him, listen to him, and listen to his conversations with other artists of various kinds for those years of apprenticeship. His insight is a major factor in my work.

Charles taught that beauty is all around us on Hopi; in the environment, in the culture, in ceremony. By combining elements from what is a part of my everyday life, the finest of ideas, with the finest of materials, I can interpret a part of Hopi for people to see and wear.

Charles spoiled us by purchasing and using only the finest of stones. I continue to enjoy inlaying with only the finest of materials, looking for the inner secrets of each. Sometimes the idea for a piece comes from a stone -- the way it is shaped or the feeling it gives. From the stones comes the shape and structure of the inlay. My role is to allow the stones to become what they can, in the way that they need to be. When a piece is completed, it can then go on its own to create joy and happiness in others.” -- Verma "Sonwai" Nequatewa

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