Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spiritually Inspired Jewellery by Zhaawano Giizhik (Part I)

"Imaginative mind is like an endless sky"

"Ogichidaa Gikinawaaji`owin" (Mark of the Warrior)
- sterling silver, turquoise & red coral belt buckle, © Zhaawano Giizhik
/Click on image to Enlarge/


Intrigued with purity of design and always looking for unusual, artistic placement of stones (which sometimes challenges the old, traditional Native feeling of symmetry in design), I designed and constructed this overlay belt buckle adorned with turquoise and red coral, the sleekness of the slightly curved silver surface resulting into a modern and minimalist design. Showing a stylized bear paw made with the aid of the shadowbox technique, the buckle is my tribute to the OGICHIDAAG, or MINISIINOOG (warriors) of yesterday and today. In southern Anishinaabe societies the claws of Makwa (bear), Bizhiw (Lynx) and Ma’iingan (wolf) stand for perseverance and guardianship, as well as for strength and courage. They are “warrior” symbols of great magic that may apply to men as well as women, even in our day.

Overlay type of jewelry, a fabulous technique originated around 1840 in Arizona by Hopi silversmiths, is produced by soldering two pieces of silver (or one piece of silver and one piece of gold) together. The top piece contains a design element (the bear paw of the bracelet) which is cut out of the metal. The bottom piece of metal is then oxidized to produce a contrasting background. Stamping, engraving or stone setting (sometimes in combination with the shadowbox technique) is sometimes done to finish the desired design. The near finished product is then filed, buffed and polished to produce an fine finish.

Of course modern day Hopi silver and goldsmiths do not limit themselves to overlay (Charles Loloma for instance hardly used it) and it is done by many Native American artists other than the Hopi. With the aid of a small line embossing tool, most Hopi artists texture the silver bottom sheet of an overlay piece to produce an additional contrasting effect (but also to camouflage any solder that the jeweller might have spilled while soldering). In order to distinguish my overlay from that of the Hopi, I like to keep the underlying, blackened silver perfectly smooth. Personally, I believe this doesn’t diminish the three-dimensional quality of my overlay jewelry one bit. However, if I feel texturing could enhance an overlay piece I’m working on, I use the technique of rocker engraving, a once popular method of decorating silver used by Eastern and Great Plains Native silversmiths - such as the Menominii, Kiowa, and Comanche. Unlike the Hopi method of indenting a bottom sheet of overlay by means of a punch, the rocking-like motion of a graver, made to follow the shape of the design, cuts out tiny slivers of metal, producing a zig-zag line which can best be compared with herringbone prints left in the snow by a skier walking uphill.

SHADOWBOX, introduced in the 1970’s by Dineh and Pueblo silversmiths from the Southwest, is a technique I also like to include in my overlay jewelry. In the Ogichidaa Gikinawaaji`owin belt buckle for instance, the deep, blackened recesses that make up the contours of the stylized bear paw are highlighted by the bezels (stone settings) that I soldered in their interior. These “shadow-boxes’’ create the illusion of “floating” bezels and at the same time accentuate the brilliant blue color of the stones…

N’mashki-akiim, n’ mashki-akiim
Aapiji-manidoowan, aapiji-manidoowan

Giinawaa, giinawind
G’minisiinoowim, g’ minisiinoowim

/“My medicine, my medicine,
Is very strong, is very strong

You, we,
Warriors you, warriors we”/

- Fragment of an old Anishinaabe warrior song

Zhaawano Giizhik

Source: (Facebook)
              /Used with permission/

>>> Reference links:
~ Zhaawano Giizhik's Website,
~ Zhaawano Giizhik's Blog &
~ Zhaawano Giizhik's Twitter. -.

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