Happy Indigenous Peoples Day

Every year more cities across the country are replacing Columbus Day in favor of a new holiday – Indigenous Peoples Day. Here in Albuquerque, the change was made in 2015. New Mexico’s Indigenous population makes up 10.6%, with 22 distinct American Indian tribes calling this beautiful state home. Jewelry is a large part of Native culture, and we are blessed to be immersed daily in the inspiring designs of both traditional and contemporary Native jewelers, artists and artisans.

In observance of Indigenous People’s Day, we at American West Jewelry would like to say “thank you!” to all of our Indigenous friends and family for the immense contributions they have given not only the jewelry world, but all facets of American life, from farming to the creation of our Constitution. Did you know that the Founding Fathers were inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy’s form of democracy? Well now you do!

For me, Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of remembrance to the millions of men, women and children who were killed in the Americas, forgotten in the history books and in unmarked graves. It is a day to honor the warriors who lived and died fighting for their people and their homeland, and to give thanks to each and every mother and grandmother, father and grandfather who survived so that we would survive, who clung to life in impossible situations so that our people would continue. Indigenous Peoples Day reminds all of us of our sacred responsibility to protect this world that we inhabit and all life forms on it so that the seventh generation will have a home in which to walk in beauty.

The Art of Friendship

I remember the first time I met the famous, award winning Santa Clara Pueblo potter, Jody Naranjo. It was through our relationship with the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts that we ventured into our first collaboration. Being one of the most awarded and collected artist at the Santa Fe Indian Market, I was a bit nervous when she first visited my design studio. Within minutes, we felt like kindred spirits. Our first piece was a pendant that was presented to all the pueblo potters of SWAIA in 2012. Soon after, Bill and I acquired our first, treasured Jody Naranjo pottery set.  It is called “Outside the Box”, and truly represents Jody’s unique approach to pottery. Being an eighth generation potter, Jody continues to use primitive, traditional techniques while expressing contemporary attitudes and whimsy. Every time I look at this pot, with its critters circling around it, my spirit immediately lifts.

Earlier this year we did a photo shoot with Jody at her home studio in Albuquerque, NM, where I fell instantly in love with an extraordinary pot she was working on featuring pueblo women figures. I watched Jody apply the finishing etchings and left her home, pot in hand, feeling truly blessed. I asked Jody if this could be the inspiration for our next jewelry collaboration. We both agreed that it would make a wonderful pendant to honor the strong, loving women in all our lives.

I presented the first sample pendant to Jody this August at Santa Fe Indian Market and was overwhelmed by her joy. The many people in line at her booth to purchase her prized pottery also expressed Jody’s infectious energy about this piece. My day felt complete, and it was only 7am!

I am honored to call Jody my dear friend and am so proud to share that Jody Naranjo is the recipient of this year’s New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. We decided it was most appropriate to celebrate this honor, and our friendship, with a cuff bracelet featuring Jody’s signature whimsical, yet powerful, animal figures featured on my first piece of Jody’s pottery.  We hope this piece brings you joy as you look down at your hand and think of those who’ve touched you, and the many you touch.

7As you can imagine, Jody’s hands are works of art themselves, carrying within them a layering of knowledge and skill passed down to her from her mother and other female relatives – now transferred on to her own three beautiful and talented daughters. Jody has what I call “smiling hands,” and it has been nothing but a joyous experience being able to work so closely with her and get a glimpse into her own amazing, creative mind. We jive together the way old friends do, and from it, I feel we have created some of my favorite pieces to date.

Please join me and my good friend (and fellow Jody Naranjo collector) Jill Bauer as we debut these truly amazing pieces at 4pm ET on Labor Day, September 3rd!

May you be blessed with the joy and strength of friendship.

Love, Carolyn

#AWYou Monique Candelaria, In Her Own Words

We thought it was about time you met the face of American West Jewelry. Monique Candelaria has been modeling for us since 2015, but this New Mexico-born actor is a diverse and passionate artist with a fascinating story.


American West Jewelry: How do you describe yourself, artistically?

Monique Candelaria: Artistically, I would describe myself as being fluid. I flow through many art forms every day of my life – whether it be for my career as an actor, singing around town as a passionate hobby, or writing stories or drawing as a form of meditation.

AWJ: Describe the experience of being the face of American West Jewelry.

MC: Honestly I felt truly honored to be considered for such a position. The brand itself embraces the cultural influences of its creative inspirations while emphasizing the empowerment of women. Being born in the state of New Mexico, I am a product of my environment by being a mixture of Mescalero Apache, Aztec and European descent.

Essentially, I feel that by being able to embody the history of my ancestors I have helped bring to life the authenticity of the brand while also emphasizing that acceptance in a diverse mixed-culture can help us evolve and create a better world filled with beauty. I am embodying the values of American West by making sure that I embrace who I am as a person, follow my dreams and never allow myself to be limited by fear.


AWJ: Was there a moment when you knew you were going to be an actor?

MC: I was two years in at the University of New Mexico when I realized that even though I excel in science, I was always looking for a way to be creative. I realized I’d rather live a life of unpredictability and be happy than go for stability and live a life of monotony. So, I changed my academic path from science to the arts and ended up graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in acting.

AWJ: What have been the highlights of your career?

MC: The seed that allowed my career to blossom was being cast in Bless Me, Ultima where I became eligible for the Screen Actors Guild. Then, The Control Group was my first lead-role on a feature film. It was also my first time having a role where I was sent out of New Mexico to Fergus Falls, Minnesota. I will never forget the feeling of getting on an airplane and knowing I was going to be away from home for a month because I was actually doing something I love.

The most recognizable highlight in my career was being cast in Breaking Bad as “Lucy” in Episodes #501 Live Free or Die and #516 Felina! Suddenly I was getting recognition internationally. It was an exhilarating feeling but one of awe as well because even though I watched Breaking Bad, I had no idea at the time how far its reach truly was.

My most recent major highlight was being cast as a recurring character on a mini series called Snatchers! The second season I was cast in New Mexico, and when the show got picked up for a third season I was flown to Salt Lake City, UT. These 2 seasons have not yet been released but when they do I will definitely post it on my Instagram page (@MoCa369) and on my Facebook fan page. So keep an eye out for it!

If you’re interested in seeing other films I have been a part of check out my IMDb page at imdb.me/moniquecandelaria.

AWJ: Who are the women that have inspired you the most along the way?

MC: The woman that has inspired me the most is my mama. She is the strongest person I know, inside and out, with a heart of gold. She has taught me to always ask questions, take the time to analyze, know where I stand, and never be afraid to fight for what I believe is right.

She has also encouraged me to follow my dreams, and although she gives me my space to create my own life path, she is the one person I know that will always be there for me. She ultimately inspires me to be the best person I can be while finding ways for those around me to shine, as well.



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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

Help Us End Childhood Hunger

The Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico was founded in 1980 with humble beginnings but has grown to be the largest food bank in the state. They provide services to feed the hungry in New Mexico and have a multitude of programs aimed at eliminating hunger. One of these programs is the Childhood Hunger Initiative. This weekend, we’re donating 20% of all proceeds to this organization as our way to help end childhood hunger. SHOP NOW to help us help our children.

To learn more about the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico’s Childhood Hunger Initiative, read below or visit their website at: http://www.rrfb.org/

Childhood Hunger Initiative
Hunger can have immediate and lasting effects on children during the most crucial developmental stage in their lives. The Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI) at Roadrunner Food Bank is the evolution of our former Food For Kids (FFK) program. Through CHI, the Food Bank aims to feed hungry children by feeding the entire family unit. By working with schools to provide food to families in a variety of ways, the initiative will dramatically increase the amount of food and meals families and their children will receive to solve childhood hunger in New Mexico.

How the Childhood Hunger Initiative Helps Solve Childhood Hunger
The Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI) works to solve child and family hunger by providing each partner school the ability to receive food from Roadrunner Food Bank through a combination of hunger-relief programs:

School Pantries: Provides each school the opportunity to create a school-based or on site food pantry allowing families to receive help any time it is needed during the school year.
Mobile Pantries – Every month families at participating schools receive a monthly mobile or “traveling” food pantry held at the school’s location. Each family receives about 50 pounds of food including healthy food such as vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat and much more.
Backpacks – Supplements food for children and families in situations where a parent/guardian is unable to pick up food from the school. A small amount of food can be sent home in a backpack with the child to help the family through a short amount of time.

Indian Market Artist Kathleen Wall is #AWYou

Following in the footsteps of many talented female potters, Jemez Pueblo multimedia artist Kathleen Wall carries clay in her blood.


“All of my mentors are women. They are all influential Pueblo potters,” says Wall at her bright, airy studio in the heart ofPueblo nestled along the Rio Grande Valley at the fertile foothills of the Jemez Mountains. At just a short jog outside the hustle and bustle of New Mexico’s biggest city, Jemez feels like a bucolic oasis of family, tradition, and history. “Inspiration is definitely my surroundings… The thing about the Pueblo potter is she’s resilient to rejection. She’s strong physically because making pottery in all aspects of it you have to be physically strong… You have to go market yourself and you have to have strength in order to survive off your artwork. I’ve had that inspiration from all my aunts and, also, other Pueblo potters.”

With two BFAs in 3D and 2D arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, an incubator for many a celebrated artist, Wall is a diverse and cutting edge artist. She began her career as a teenager creating the storyteller dolls traditional to her Pueblo, then she studied sculpture during her first foray at IAIA, and later focus for on painting while earning her second degree. A success story right out the gate, upon graduating with her first BFA Wall says she was delighted to be accepted at the prestigious Santa Fe Indian Market. But that milestone was soon surpassed when to her astonishment she received her first blue ribbon.


“I was taught to make storytellers as a young child,” she says. “My mother and all five of her siblings made storytellers and they taught their daughters and granddaughters how to make them. I made storytellers from about 15 until around 19 when I veered away from the storyteller and started going more sculptural. I do like to revisit the storyteller, but I do it in my variation.”

Since earning her first blue ribbon at the oldest and largest indigenous juried art show in the world, Wall has seen many more moments of success. Most recently one of her sculptures was accepted as the features artwork for the 2018 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which has featured art by the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe. And of course with Indian Market just a few weeks away, Wall has been hard at work creating fresh, innovative pieces for her booth — #PAL222 on Palace Ave. Besides being a place to show and sell her at, Wall says to her and a lot of the other artists, market weekend is a creative reunion with friends and family from all over the world.


“Mine is a story of family, of heritage. I’m working with a lot of names and how Native American names connect to the person and the culture,” she says. “Our names are so much a part of the culture that we celebrate. I’ll do a painting of a Native American name and do a portrait of the person in front of the painting and sort of merge them together.”

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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

AWJ Guest Artist to Receive Governor’s Award

We are so excited for our dear friend and guest designer Jody Naranjo who is being recognized this September 2018 with a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in Art.


The Governor’s Award was established in 1974 by former New Mexico Governor Bruce King and former First Lady Alive King to celebrate the role that artists, craftspeople, and arts supporters play in the culture and economic life of the state.

This September 14, Jody will become one of these elite artists that include the likes of painter Tony Abeyta (2012 awardee) and Native American actor Wes Studi (2010).

Jody, who comes from a long line of Tewa potters and artists from Santa Clara Pueblo has been an artist since the age of 8. “She is not afraid to push beyond the conventional treatment of Tewa pottery. Her forays into bronze sculpture and glass have demonstrated her ability to challenge herself beyond the limitations and safety of one medium,” said owner of the Santa Fe Blue Rain Gallery Leroy Garcia on the Governor’s Award webpage. (See our blog on Jody’s story here: https://awblog.carolynpollack.com/2018/04/03/jody-naranjo-is-awyou/ )

We’ve been hip to Jody’s many talents for years and are proud to have her a part of our family of Native American guest designers. In fact, hot off the polishing wheel is a stunning cuff inspired by her iconic “critter” design that appears on her pottery. The cuff will debut on QVC in September!


When we caught up with Jody, who is busy not only preparing to receive this prestigious award but for her booth #WAW402 at the Santa Fe Indian Market this is what she had to say.

American West Jewelry:  What does it mean to you to receive this amazing award at this time in your life and career?

Jody Naranjo: It is a huge honor! It’s definitely not something you think will happen to you. I’m just so fortunate that my little designs have made people happy!

AWJ:  Who are some of the women who have helped you become the person you are today?

JN: My family is about 80% women. Pottery and other art forms are very dominant in our culture and history. I grew up surrounded by these talented artists and couldn’t help but be inspired by them.

AWJ: For many young people out there in the creative world, the thought of being a working artist is a dream come true. What advice do you have for people, especially women, who are aspiring artists?

JN: I have 3 daughters and have always told them to pick a career that they will love. If you enjoy it you will never be bored or get tired of it. It’s a lot of work to be a full-time artist. Take advantage of all opportunities that come your way. Always keep challenging yourself to make new and evolving designs and try new mediums.


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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

Make A Statement at Indian Market

Everything is bigger in Texas! If there’s one thing our neighbors to the east know how to do, it’s how to take every experience to the next level. Our friends at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center are living proof of this well known theory.

The 97th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market is right around the corner and we’re entrusting our amigos at the Gaylord to outfit you for this auspicious yearly event where artists and personalities from around the world come together to celebrate Indigenous art.

As with any good foundation, I always say, begin with your boots. Willow Creek is your headquarters for all things Western and wonderful. From stellar boots to killer accessories, Willow Creek has you covered, literally.

Gaylord Style 1

Shop ‘till you drop and then enjoy a steak and a glass of wine to get energized to shop some more. The Old Hickory Steakhouse is our all time favorite spot to relax and enjoy some juicy, premium black angus beef cooked just the way you like it. Pair with a sample of artisan cheese and indulge in something from their Texas-inspired wine cellar. Go ahead, have one for us, too!

When you’re feeling revived, head over to our location in the Carolyn Pollack shop and enhance every outfit with the perfect collection of unique American West Jewelry, ethically handcrafted right here in New Mexico. Our charmed red coral necklace is even inspired by the magic of Santa Fe. And, you can never go wrong with a classic squash blossom necklace, especially when we’ve given it a mysterious twist in black onyx.

Gaylord Style 2

After you’ve perfected you Indian Market look, don’t forget to take advantage of the exquisite Alamo inspired décor and lush atrium for your perfect selfie moment. Remember to tag #AWYou so we can see how you make American West your very own!

Happy shopping!

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Gaylord Style 9

Wearable Stories: Fritz Casuse Jewelry

American West guest jewelry designer Fritz Casuse is a storyteller who uses pieces of timeless, wearable art to bring to life the power and beauty of Navajo imagery.  An award-winning jeweler, Fritz creates fluid, dimensional works that mix elements of sculpture with traditional designs and Navajo mythology to create truly contemporary Native American jewelry.


A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, Fritz has been making cutting edge jewelry for close to two decades. The movement and texture in each piece breathes life into the metal and stones in surprising ways that challenge the longstanding ideas of what Native American jewelry is, often putting fresh new spins on historic designs.

The naja design was first introduced to the Southwest as an adornment on Spanish bridles, and was soon adopted into Navajo silversmithing as a pendant. Fritz has taken this classic design and given it a modern twist as a statement ring. This sleek design then takes it a step further with an alluring sloped curve in the central design that feels as good as it looks.


To walk in beauty is a fundamental part of Navajo philosophy. Of his take on his naja pendant and ring designs, Fritz says, “The crescent moon and stars is for a blessed journey throughout our lives, walking in beauty.”

The fluidity in his sterling silver Yeibichai Cuff is as dramatic as it is delicate, a fitting combination as it is a representation, he says, of male and female Yei (Gods) “living in unity, harmony, and beauty within and all around.” In mythology, red coral is associated with the feminine while turquoise is often associated with masculinity. Fritz also explains that his red coral pendant is a symbol of our inner strength, wisdom, prayers, and family.

The use of the dragonfly design in much of Fritz’s work is due to this vibrant little insect being considered a messenger for a beautiful life, as well as hope, happiness and the strength of togetherness. The abalone shell used in the wings is also symbolic in that many Navajo stories have strong connections between this shell and one of their primary deities, White Shell girl.


Why Santa Fe is Bucket List Worthy

August is one of our favorite months because around here it means Indian Market time. For artists and collectors and spectators alike, Indian Market is the two days out of the year when you get to reconnect with old friends, see the incredible pieces of art they have been creating over the last 12 months, and be a part of the 100,000 travelers who converge on the city with one common love in their heart, Native American Art.

So, with the 97th Annual SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market just one month away, we thought we should list what we think are the most important reasons to love Santa Fe. This is among the most beautiful and artistic cities in the world and a destination for anyone interested in art, culture, history and exploration. Whether or not you plan to attend Indian Market, an incredible experience in its own right, a trip to Santa Fe should be a part of everyone’s bucket list. Here’s why.

You don’t have to be an artist to be inspired. Whether you are touring the historic plaza, wandering amongst the galleries on Canyon Road, or exploring a special event like Indian Market, the wealth of picturesque moments will capture your heart and open your imagination. Don’t be surprised to find yourself lost in the way the afternoon light plays against an adobe wall, enchanted by the colorful flair of Native American dancers, or carried away by the neon blaze of a sunset. You’ll find art living in everyone and realize it’s probably living in you, too.

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 Life tastes better here. The food of Santa Fe is almost as delightful as the view. Just the way flavors work together in a perfectly balanced meal, the excellent culinary world of Santa Fe helps form a rounded experience for any visitor’s senses. Try Café Pasqual’s where the organic ingredients and community table create a “just like momma made it” taste and feel for our unique New Mexico food. Or take advantage of the large variety of international cuisine to bite into authentic, mouthwatering African food at Jambo, or dine on the freshest sushi in the west in the Koyoto-styled ambiance of Kohnami. For a modern twist on the historic (something that happens a lot here), La Boca offers an incredible wine selection and Spanish tapas that are reminiscent of old world, if the old world gave out James Beard Awards.

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 History isn’t just living, it’s living on the edge. Everywhere you look history is alive and mixing and mingling with Santa Fe’s diverse and colorful residents, remaining in tact or being reimagined in more creative ways. For example, during the Santa Fe Fiestas, a celebration of Spanish conquest stretching back to the 1600s, you will also find a 50 feet high marionette called Zozobra who is burned in colorful effigy to rid spectators of their sorrows. Or, just as you can enjoy art and architecture dating back to the Anasazi, you can also find the surreal and psychedelic art installation Meow Wolf, which is quickly becoming one of the most popular art experiences in the world. And, just as the oldest house in America exists here, so does the ultra-modern Visual Arts Center designed by Mexico City architect Ricardo Legorreta.

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So, pack your bags, baby, Santa Fe is calling! And for more information in this year’s Indian Market, visit www.swaia.org.

American West, American Made: Happy 4th of July!

As our name suggests, we are proud as a peacock to be American! More so, it is with great pride that we can say every piece of American West Jewelry is made right here, in the USA. We believe in empowering our economy and our citizens as we hope to empower the women who wear our jewelry to pursue their wildest dreams. From our designs to our materials, our jewelry is deeply rooted in American tradition and culture.


Even as we get ready to celebrate the 4th of July, our mind is always thinking forward to the next seven generations. We love our country and we love sharing her many beauties and styles with the world, while protecting her natural resources at every opportunity. For instance, we take measures to use only recycled metals that reduce the demand for mining.


So from our American West family to yours, Happy Independence Day! We hope you take a moment today to think about how you help keep this country an awesome place to live, and pat yourself on the back for being a part of the our beautiful red, white and blue legacy. Remember to follow your spirit and chase your dreams and build more than you take down!