When asked where he gets his turquoise, Ray just smiles, wags his finger, and says, “From old friends.” Whoever those “Old Friends” are, Ray comes up with a wide variety of rare and uncommonly fine turquoise. This particular stone is from the Skyline turquoise mine (aka, Old Rufa or Rufan mine) from Lander County, Nevada. The Skyline mine was a small and seemingly insignificant mine that didn’t produce much high-grade material. Somehow Ray discovered some that has superior color, hardness, and durability. “Every turquoise mine has small amounts of great, high-quality, and natural turquoise,” says Ray. “You just have to know where to look.”
Ray never travels alone, there is always a large assemblage of family around him, and to him everyone seems to be family. We suspect that when Ray is loading the car for a selling trip, anyone in the village wanting or needing a vacation shows up at his door with their bags packed. We are reasonably sure that everyone is welcome. The most common passengers are Ray's daughter and her son River. We have attempted to barter for River from time to time, but have yet to strike a deal. Ray is extremely fond of him, and Kira and Grange (Steve's red-headed offspring) may both be on their way to Santa Domingo if River remains.
Ray's vehicles are mostly of the well used variety, and it doesn't seem to bother him that he may be walking across the vast, open spaces of the desert Southwest at any moment if the car collapses. Knowing Ray, it wouldn't take him long to scrounge up a ride for the whole troupe. In fact, over the twenty-five years we have known Ray, there have been many stories which include long walks. The stories always end with the car being patched up and the selling trip continuing.
The creative side of this outgoing, gregarious Puebloan is as wonderful as his humorous side. Ray has won more awards for his art than any other Santa Domingo artist we know. This is saying a great deal, since we have been selling Indian art since 1969, when we were ten and eleven respectively. When the topic of high quality, natural turquoise bead necklaces and earrings is brought up, Ray Lovato is always mentioned. He has won awards at such prestigious shows as the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Gallup Ceremonials and the Eight Northern Pueblos. Very few of his counterparts use the quality of materials and pay attention to the detail the way Ray does.
The kicker in our eyes, and greatest reason for Ray's marketing success, is that when he arrives at our door he first presents gifts. There are always presents of homemade tamales, traditional bread or blue corn cookies. We are especially susceptible to the blue corn cookies, and our stomachs always swell when they arrive. We love them, we fight over them as a matter of fact. This gentle soul with laughing eyes sits back and lets his generous bounty do it's intended work. In addition to the food, Ray also brings his carefully crafted masterworks to entice us. Ray Lovato is the master of his world, a master craftsman, master baker, master of humor and master in the art of salesmanship. "Hurry back Ray - we’re out of cookies!"