Earlier this year, I had a chance to visit with Piki Wadsworth, a highly regarded young jeweler. I had seen her work in several magazine ads, and had heard from my gemologist friend Dayton Simmons that she used natural (untreated) turquoise to hand cut her necklace beads. It is time consuming and laborious to hand-cut and drill each turquoise bead, and takes a lot of patience and care. So during Santa Fe’s Indian Market, I sought her out to meet this artist and see her work.
The daughter of Glenn Wadsworth and Cheryl Yestewa, Piki was born into a high-quality jewelry-making tradition. She was born on Second Mesa in the Hopi Nation, and is proud of her Hopi heritage. Both of her parents are highly skilled jewelers, and Piki learned how to cut the turquoise beads and string them at a very early age. However, Piki has only launched her solo jewelry-making endeavors in the past few years, already garnering significant acclaim for her attention to detail and her elegant creations.
So, though I had not intended to purchase anything that day, I saw a gorgeous 23” Kingman turquoise necklace with an 18 karat gold chain and gold beads interspersed. The corn tabs are at the center of this piece, keeping with honored traditions. I felt the smoothness of the turquoise beads against my hand and neck, and knew right away that this was an amazing piece of jewelry. Piki’s reputation as an expert jeweler is very deserved. So yes, I gave in to my inner voice and acquired the necklace, featuring it in our Gallery’s Christmas ad in Native American Arts magazine.
I chatted with Piki for a while longer, and learned more of her life story. To me, this is always one of the best parts of working with artists – getting to know who they are and the influences they have had to shape their character. I found that Piki was a delightful lady, with a pleasant spirit and depth of character not typically found in younger people, particularly artists who have a meteoric rise to fame.
Over the years, I have embraced my passion for building relationships with Native American artists and their families, and I have found a calm, gentle approach to life to be more typical than not. My dear friends who have grown up in the Hopi traditions, like David Dawangyumptewa, seem to have an inner glow about them, a glow of being connected to the world through their art. The more I get to know Piki, the more I think she is another connected soul.
Piki said, “Since I was girl little I have loved stones. Now that I am older working with stones, taking each piece of raw rough turquoise and making in to a beautiful piece of jewelry to wear and to cherish brings such a good feeling to my heart. I love it more and more each day and I feel very fortunate to have learned such a beautiful art.”
Candidly, I think we are all fortunate that Piki has such talent with turquoise, and has shared that talent with us in her amazing creations. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the one necklace that I purchased, and have since acquired from her two more, with a third on order. Each time she makes a necklace, she carefully chooses turquoise from a single turquoise mine, and shapes the individual beads to match and display the spectacular turquoise matrix and colors in the gems.
Regardless of the medium, Native American artists have a way of expressing their connectedness to Mother Earth and showing those connections through their traditions and artistry. Whether paint, clay, stone, metal, or other raw materials, the artistry springs from their souls and tells us a wonderful story. Piki has an elegant story to tell, and I look forward to hearing more.