Wilford Begay

Wilford Begay

Wilford Begay - Silversmith: Wilford Begay is from the high desert area of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. Born to the Red House Clan and for the Coyote Pass Clan, Wilford's heritage is strong in silversmithing. His great-great-grandfather, whom he knew well, was an accomplished silversmith, as is his father. Additionally, Wilford spent two years in post highschool classes in Tsaile, Arizona, at Navajo Community College; and Shiprock, New Mexico, earning a Silversmithing Certificate. Over the past five years he has won three first place awards in the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonials with his distinctive and beautifully done Early Morning Kachina renditions.

Educated in Lukachukai, Arizona, in the heart of the Navajo homeland, Wilford Begay was steeped in Navajo tradition and culture. Surrounded by colorful sandstone, with scrubby cedar and pinion trees scarcely interrupting the landscape, he grew up knowing the stars in the heavens and the abundant silence of solitude.

Wilford made his first pair of silver earrings when he was about twelve years old, and continued dabbling in the jewelry business throughout high school and college. One of his most influential teachers was Tony Goldtooth.

After earning his Silversmithing Certificate, Wilford detoured into law enforcement and worked for the Navajo Police in Shiprock, New Mexico, and Chinle, Arizona. For four and a one-half years he was on the police force, all the while tinkering with silversmithing on the side. Then, with his wife's support, he got up the courage to quit his full time employment to do what he loves most- working with silver.

"It's a good job," Wilford testifies, and then, as a testimonial to his skill he adds, "It pays me a lot."

Although Wilford can do most anything another silversmith can do, he prefers working on Kachina dolls, which are his specialty. "I was told by my medicine man I'm not supposed to be doing the Navajo kachinas-the Yei bi Chei," Wilford explains. "Anything to do with the Navajo I don't do. Hopis I can do."

An Eagle Kachina was his all-time favorite piece, although the Early Morning Kachinas have won him acclaim. Working out of his home, Wilford first sketches the patterns he will use, then he cuts the body pieces. Working on one project at a time, Wilford molds the parts by soldering them together. Then he does his inlay work, using a variety of traditional stones, including turquoise to jet. He finishes each piece by putting a high polish on it.

Wilford is presently experimenting with a newly developed process called "silver sculpting," a combination of sand casting and carving. A touch of this may be on his more recent pieces. Wilford signs his work with a stamped arrowhead, usually found on the back of the kachina's head.

Every year Wilford's Medicine Man - his uncle- performs a three day Beauty Way ceremony for him, to cleanse his body, mind, and spirit; and to make him strong for the coming year's challenges. This strength is found in Wilford's distinctive kachinas.

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This site was last updated on September 28, 2020.

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