Inner Circumference: 6 1/4"
Opening: 1 1/8"
Total: 7 3/8"
Turquoise and coral, silver and gold, land and sky, shepherd and livestock; these are combinations as old as Navajo culture itself. Robert Taylor combines all these elements to make one extraordinary man’s bracelet. Robert’s sense of humor is as well developed as his silversmithing skills, so you get a humorous commentary on Navajo lifestyle in a cuff you will treasure the rest of your life, and maybe into the afterlife.
Robert Taylor - Silversmith "Cluster, channel, leaf, inlay, casting... I've done about everything," Robert Taylor talks about his silver and goldsmithing, "There's a lot of artists that do it." And then he confides the reason he has set himself apart from other craftsmen. "I didn't really get anywhere until I decided to design my own style."
Robert's "own style" is often based on stories, greatly influenced by his traditional Navajo upbringing. It has brought him much recognition, but when asked about commendations he shrugs. "I have a lot of awards and ribbons at home," he says. He does remember receiving Best of Division awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum. Some of his best pieces, including one of his favorites - a concho belt where each segment illustrates a different Navajo rug design - have been featured in the acclaimed book Enduring Traditions.
"Back in 1970, when I was small, my dad bought a few tools," Robert Taylor begins his story of how he grew into silversmithing. "I watched him make rings and bracelets. Then, a couple of years later, my brothers and sister started. I just watched them. Then they started me as a jewelry buffer. I became a good buffer and they liked my work. So one of my older brothers took me on in Farmington."
The first piece of jewelry Robert made he traded for a turquoise necklace. Silversmithing for him began more as a hobby, a summer job, something sandwiched in between sessions of school. Because of the distance to schools from his reservation home in Arizona, he attended a variety of schools at Dilcon and Toyie, Arizona; and then Wingate and Farmington, New Mexico.
When Robert graduated from high school he found employment in construction, as an iron worker. This seemed satisfactory until he met his wife and they started a family. Robert was traveling from job to job and didn't get to see his family except on weekends. And then, in his words, "I found out making jewelry's better. I can stay home with my kids. That's what I like about it."
Now Robert's brother-in-law is the one who does buffing for him - ("That's the dirty work", Robert confides) - and his young son is the one who stands and watches them. "He wants to learn the jewels," Robert comments, seemingly pleased.
"My mother and wife are both rug weavers," he comments, speaking of his sources of inspiration. He also relies on the Navajo Storyteller, Flute Player, Yeis, lizards, and sand painting symbols to fuel his creativity. With a positive tone he adds, "Right now I'm coming up with more designs."
Robert not only features unusual original designs, his techniques are also unusual. "I don't do a lot of stamping," he says, referring to a standard silversmithing technique. "Mine is mostly overlay. I don't carry any patterns- I've got it all in my head. I sketch out the design - (using a scribe to etch it)- then cut out the silver top plate and then the bottom, so it looks like a picture frame. Then I solder the two pieces together."
His main tools are saw blades, a torch for soldering, and a hammer.
Robert and his family live on the vast Arizona desert part of the Navajo reservation, the same place Robert was born. They have electricity, but no running water. They are grateful to have electricity - many reservation residents do not. They have grown up with the routine of hauling water so it isn't considered a hardship. Right now Robert's workshop is in the laundry room. They take their clothes to a laundromat in town.
In addition to silversmithing, Robert's other talents include being a musician. "I get tired of sitting in the same place," he says of his work, "and I feel like playing music." He belongs to a band and plays either lead guitar or drums, enjoying both country music and rock 'n roll. "When I get back then I'm fresh and can start again."
Robert's father - who was 62 years old when Robert was born - is still living and a vital force in his life. He is a Medicine Man and he records the Navajo traditional stories, songs, and prayers on cassette tapes so Robert can learn them as he drives long stretches to market his work.
"I'm very proud of my Navajo culture," Robert says. Then he quietly sums up the essence of his life's work, "What's important is to keep up good work, do it right, and teach it to the young people."
entices a man to new acquaintance and often to mating. She is attractive; she
has magic power from which only the gods can save the hero. Such women were
Changing-bear-maiden, Winter Thunder's wife, the daughter and wife of Deer Owner,
the pueblo Corn Maiden seducers of Monster Slayer (Reichard, Endurance Chant
ms.; 1944d, pp. 5ff.; Haile 1943a, p. 56; Matthews 1897, pp. 174ff.; Newcomb
1940b, pp. 55ff.).
Decoys are stereotyped in Navaho myth and ritual. Gods entice heroes from their normal surroundings to teach them holy things. The conflict of a hero with Deer Owner, the arch-sorcerer, includes several decoys.
Game caught by a decoy, whether set by an evil or a helpful being, eventually redounds to the profit of future Navaho, since the episode results in ritual control: The eagle decoy set the myths of the Bead and Big Star chants in action. Changing-bear-maiden exploited an older sister's love for her little brother-the privilege of combing his hair-to his undoing, but he, with the supernatural decoy of a shadow, thwarted her effort.
Sound is a common decoy (Ch. 15; Goddard, p. 162; Matthews 1897, pp. 174ff., 195; Haile 1938b, p. 171; Newcomb 1940b, pp. 57ff., 65; Wheelwright 1942, p.98; Reichard 1939, pp. 26ff.; 1944d, pp. 5-7; Big Star Chant ms.; Endurance Chant ms.).
Horns are an evidence of power. Sun may be depicted as a disk with a face, feathers, lightning, and rain, but he is considered more powerful if he has horns; the same is true of Moon, Dark Wind and Yellow Wind, Water Monster, Water Horse, Sky, and Earth. Snakes of the Wind chants are horned; those of the Shooting Chant are not. Possibly horns represent shine, glint, or control of lightning (Newcomb-Reichard, pp. 57-8, Fig. 5, Pl. XXVIII, XXIX, XXXII, XXXIII; Reichard 1939, pp. 43, 48, 63; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 63, 65, 66).
Names are full of power, ritualistic items of tremendous value. A few examples are cited. The different names for the same person should be noted--all names belong to the specialized ceremonial language (Ch. 16; Reichard 1928, pp. 96-107; Haile 1938b, pp. 55-6; 1943a, p. 34-5).
is to be avoided in all activities. The happy medium is to be sought, so that
even in ritual there are curbs. One often gets the impression that it is impossible
for the Navaho to have enough rain, yet moderation is required even in the performance
of the Rain Ceremony. The prayerstick should be deposited on a pile of drift
rubbish at least four fingerwidths but never more than eighteen inches high.
The size of the drift pile regulates the amount of rain to be expected; too
much would be courting bad luck.
In the Night Chant, Water Sprinkler throws rain up so that it will help the people, but rainmaking is done outside the chant-that is, in the Rain Ceremony-because the chanters do not want it to rain all the time during the Night Chant performance (Restriction, Withholding; Haile 1938b, pp. 78-81; 1943a, pp. 44, 223, 247; Reichard 1934, pp. 79-93; 1944d, p. 27; Hill 1938, p. 88; Matthews 1902, pp. 180, 312, 41n; Franciscan Fathers 1910, p. 294).
has been stressed as an indispensable part of ritual. In some acts or rites
power is concentrated in the behavior of the chanter, assistants, and patient;
in others, everyone present must participate-in the sweat-emetic, ashes blowing,
prayer with pollen, holding sacred objects during prayer, and application of
yucca suds in the Rain Ceremony (if there is no patient). Proper audience participation
helps the patient and the entire tribe; even attendance at a ceremony is a part
of the sustaining effort (Introduction; Hill 1938, p. 81).
Passes, feints, are a large part of the chanter's stock-in-trade; some are made with the hands only, some with properties-for instance, arm-waving, arm-spreading, and hand-pointing to the cardinal directions. Brushing and the ceremonial lighting of prayersticks with a crystal are examples of passes made with sacred objects. The marking of the bull-roarer with the chant lotion is a pass. Some thrusts attract good, others are exorcistic; usually they may be understood in connection with the ritualistic context, but perhaps even then only if mythical details are known (Haile 1943a, p. 223; Goddard, p. 177).
Peace meant merely absence or end of war, not an ideal for which other values should be yielded. Navaho culture is built on the premise that war is necessary, that nothing esteemed can be achieved without it. "Before this [the union of separate groups] the Navaho had been a weak and peaceable tribe," relates the myth. The saga of The Twins is a succession of warlike deeds; Changing Woman's opposition to their going to war in the Hail Chant is an unusual and notable incident; it doubtless furnishes contrast and completeness.
Peace overtures show Navaho understanding of neighboring cultures worked out according to the enemies' values. After a fight the Navaho smoked the peace pipe with the Utes, embraced, and exchanged gifts-all symbols that trust had been established.
The Navaho delegate for peace entered a Hopi village singing. If he was received, a date was set for a conference; smoke signals announced his safe arrival and the possibility of a get-together. The delegates of each party, who were peace, not war chiefs, made cigarettes 'in their own way. The Navaho filled a cornhusk wrapping with mountain tobacco to which harmless insects were added to 'make the Hopi friendly.' The insects doubtless symbolize the siege of Awatobi by the Stricken Twins with their destructive worm and grasshopper (Ch. 6; cp. Smoke, Tobacco smoking; Matthews 1897, pp. 113, 127, 145; Reichard 1944d, p. 31; Hill 1936, p. 19).
Vital parts of a person depend on his powers. If speed is protection-as it was for Rainboy, Frog, and Big Monster-the soles of the feet, the hip joint, the shoulder blades, and the occipital point are vital.
Coyote and, in imitation, Changing-bear-maiden hid their vital parts-pluck, breath, blood, and entrails-in the ground; their persons could not be harmed unless these parts were destroyed. Coyote kept his vital principle at the end of his nose and tail; his uncanny sound, preserved in the same places, is a part of his power (Reichard 1944d, pp. 14-7; Shooting Chant ms.; Endurance Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, p. 91; Haile 1943a, p. 22).
Navaho religion, dogma, ritual, and practice must be looked at as an aggregate of diverse ideas, including every possible phase of nature, deity, and supernatural power, of human perception, behavior, emotion, culture, and imagination formulated in myth.
From this congeries, which actually takes all time, space, existence, and sentience for its province, certain elements have been chosen for co-ordinating a single system or order. The selected items may be in one case material, perceptual, and emotional; in another, perceptual or natural only; but whatever they are, they comprise an integrated whole.
All things in the universe, materialistic and abstract, are viewed in terms of their effect on man. If he knows about them and can control them, they are good; if not, they are evil. Some things under only partial control are good when susceptible to that control; otherwise they are bad. Therefore, the fundamental subdivisions - good and evil - which are not; absolute, overlap.
The good in all things must be attracted; hence ceremonial control invokes good in Blessing rites or 'chants-according-to-holiness.'
The evil remaining outside ritualistic control must be driven off; hence the 'evil- chasing ceremonies' with emphasis on exorcism, but from which attraction of good is by no means absent.
Each ceremony is a complex, made up of many kinds of symbols, and is inclusive rather than exclusive, since there is no predictable limit to the items that may be selected.
Each subdivision of a ceremony, which I term 'branch' or 'phase,' is characterized by features that from out viewpoint are fortuitous and therefore not susceptible to scientific systematization.
Rites, which are further subdivisions of ceremony, may refer to a series of mythological events or dramatize a single episode.
Ritualistic acts are the ultimate elements of which the larger divisions are composed. Their significance may sometimes be ascertained, but should not be expected to be the same whenever the act is performed. Each symbol has numerous interpretations, but the more we learn about it, the clearer it becomes that differences are not so much conflicting as associational and therefore, in the Navaho view, harmonious.