Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sticky Sweet!

In the heart of the Santo Domingo Pueblo, in north central New Mexico, acclaimed lapidary artist Ray Lovato and his family sit together in their small kitchen to work, eat and socialize. Often Ray gathers his tools and supplies and bellys-up to the table to string the beautiful, hand-ground turquoise beads he has just made. Ray has a gregarious, easy-going way, so his grandchildren are incredibly fond of him. Conversation is lively as Ray sits there contently, smiling and tossing in creative quips intended to keep the dialogue lively. As his grandchildren eat toast and jam, the discussions often grow more and more animated. With Ray's gleeful prodding, the situation frequently spirals into a chaotic melee. Such is the way Ray rolls; his family is his most valuable asset, and a sounding board for his latest jokes. Ray's beads are considered some of the best in the Native American art world, and as a result he enjoys a lucrative business which supports the growing brood.

Santo Domingo New Lander Calcasiderite Bead Necklace - Ray Lovato (#33)

Our friend Bob recently called about a Ray Lovato Blue Gem turquoise necklace he purchased from Twin Rocks. He was concerned that some of the beads appeared to be fused together. To be honest, I could not conceive how such a thing might happen, but then I recalled Ray's last visit, when the Kokopelli doors blew open to expose an explosion of Native children and a smiling, laughing Ray Lovato. The kids were dancing about as if fueled by pure cane sugar, and their hands and faces were colored red and blue with sticky substances. I knew for certain the glass counters would need a thorough scouring after this boundless bunch finished their tour. Ray dropped off the beads we were anticipating, along with two loaves of Santo Domingo bread, a bag of blue corn cookies, flattened wedges of a pie-like offering and several off-color jokes. He then pocketed his cash, rounded up his herd and left for southern skies.

As I spoke with Bob, addressing his concerns about his "natural" necklace, I recalled Ray's recent visit and evaluated what I knew of Ray's work space. A light came on, and I began to suspect the reasons why several of those Blue Gem beads were stuck together. In Ray's world the opportunities for sweet and sticky goodies abound. I explained my suspicions to Bob, advising him to soak the beads in cold water before sending them back to me for inspection. Bob laughed at the thought, but agreed to give the plan a try.

Several days went by and I had not heard back from Bob, so I e-mailed him, asking how the recommended solution had worked out. Bob replied that he had not soaked the beads, but had instead forced his fingernail between them and separated their sticky surfaces. Bob also mentioned that he had found two more beads attached in a similar manner. He had apparently been tempted to sample the tacky stuff to confirm our suspicions, but, believing the evidence was clear, he decided against it. Fortunately Bob has a good sense of humor and found the experience added a more human aspect to Ray's art. I now inspect Ray's beads a tad more closely. Along with the bread and cookies Ray so generously gifts us, I am on the look out for something extra sweet in his jewelry.

When I shared this sticky story with my parents, they laughed merrily and reminded me how they had raised their young family during the late 1950's and early 60's. The outpost of Bluff City left our parents far from any modern convenience, so mom and dad would load up on "supplies" whenever they went to town. Large quantities of Blue Bird flower, Crisco shortening, salt, sugar, dry yeast and butter were essential to stock the pantry. Dad reminded me that there was usually an entire beef in the freezer, much of it hamburger. From those stores mom would deliver 10 to 13 loaves of bread per week, and there was generally a large pot of chili beans on the stove to compliment the baked goods. When those hot, fresh loaves emerged from the oven, anyone familiar with mom's baking skills would show up for supper. Susan, Craig, Steve, Cindy and I would have to have been tied to a post, or trapped under a large rock, not to make an appearance.

Mom claims her five children, dad and other family and friends would go through 4 or 5 loaves of bread, a pound of sweet butter, a quart of jam, a couple gallons of milk and an entire pot of beans in one sitting. Talk about a hungry hoard! At that time, dad owned and operated a small filling station on the main highway, at the base of Cow Canyon. Each evening he would return from work and lay out his daily barter on the kitchen table for all of us to see. I cannot remember a time when there were not rugs, baskets or jewelry on or within close proximity to our table. Mom and dad assured me that beans, bread crumbs, butter and preserves often found their way into those trade goods too. What is a little sweet and sticky among friends anyway?

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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