GOOD MEDICINE
Native American Art Magazine|December - January 2021
Navajo jeweler Boyd Tsosie brings his life and culture into his art.
Michael Clawson

Sometimes it pays to have good neighbors.In the late 1960s, Boyd Tsosie, then a 13-year-old high school student in Many Farms, Arizona, lived four houses down from famous jeweler Kenneth Begay. “He was teaching in Chinle at the Navajo Community College at the time. I was a freshman who was also going to school in Chinle,” Tsosie remembers. “Every now and then I would see him outside, so I introduced myself and he told me to experiment on anything I could get my hands on. All I had at the time was one of those butane handheld torches. But whatever Kenneth told me to do that’s what I would do.”

With periodic, and impromptu, instruction from Begay, Tsosie got to work with any materials he could scrape together. The largely self-taught artist proceeded until he was 19 years old and then “it became a desperation to make jewelry,” he says. “That’s when I really started. I didn’t like traditional jewelry and I was very self-conscious, so no one ever saw some of my first pieces. Mostly what I would do was replicate other works. Later, Arizona Highways started making their jewelry issues and that’s where I really discovered what jewelry could be. I would see pieces by Lee Yazzie or Preston [Monongye] or Charles Loloma. This is what I needed to see.”

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