Festival Season is Here, Get Your Boho Beat On in Festival Favs Your Outfit Craves

The sun is shining, music is in the air, and we are busy planning the perfect outfits for that big gig we waited all winter to attend. All over the country we are emerging from our snowy cocoons and chilly desert dwellings to spread our wings like glittery butterflies at events like Coachella, Stagecoach, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), and The Governors Music Ball.

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For those of us who live and breath music, spring doesn’t arrive with the vernal equinox, it happens the moment we set foot on the first green lawn of the year, let our hair down, and vibe with the sounds of our favorite bands.

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Over here at American West Jewelry we have been busy going through our archives and caches to put together the perfect combination of ethically handcrafted jewelry to help you make the scene. And with Earth Day just around the bend, it’s worth mentioning that all of our sterling comes from recycled silver, which means that we are doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint and preserve this big beautiful blue ball so that folks can go on making and enjoying music for 100s of years to come.

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This year we found ourselves inspired by long layered chains, statement pendants, stackable silver cuffs and crescent moons! The traditional Naja design that is commonly seen on Squashblossom necklaces, which also made the cut BTW, happen to be the perfect crescent design for all of our moon lovers out there. And honestly, who doesn’t love the moon? Especially when you’re dancing under it.

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We dug deep into our rock ‘n’ roots and reimagined some of our favorite ’70s designs, like our new headdress pendant that looks like something your mom could have rocked at Woodstock, or our Ancient Wisdom cuffs that feel like a delicious, dusty old pawn shop find on a steamy roadtrip down Route 66.

It’s time to get shopping and put together your best #FestivalOutfit for 2019! We’ll catch you later, by the stage.

– Ungie, and my friends at American West

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The Blessing of Corn

For many indigenous peoples, corn plays an important role in culture and spiritual practices.
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To the Navajo people, in particular, there are very few ceremonies in which corn does not play a role of some kind. Corn represents life itself and is an important “character” in the Diné Bahaneʼ (Navajo Creation Story.) Corn pollen is used as a means of blessing in Navajo and Pueblo people.
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The Corn Maiden is a sacred personification of bounty, who appears throughout many Native American cultures. In Zuni pueblo, Corn maidens came to the village to dance and bring a good harvest and represent the important role women play in the culture. The Hopi speak of the Blue Corn Maiden’s beauty and kindness and how it was stolen by the winter beings (kachinas), taking the harvest with her. The Summer Katchina then appealed to the Winter Katchina to return the Corn Maiden for half the year, which is why the harvest is annual.
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The Jewels of Route 66 Reimagined

She wore neon like a string of pearls…

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On a balmy summer afternoon, Ruth shares with me her story of growing up along Route 66 and how this iconic road helped shape the woman she would become.

Ruth, Navajo, was adopted as a baby by a family from in Tucumcari, NM. Since the moment she opened her eyes to this world, Route 66 was there, but for Ruth the route is more than just an historic highway. Knowing that Route 66 ran through her new home as well as the land where she was born helped give her a sense of connection to her people and to Dinétah — the Navajo word used to identify her homeland. Eventually the road also became a symbol of femininity and strength to Ruth.

Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Ruth saw Route 66 at its prime, a busy transcontinental thoroughfare bringing business, color and life to the communities along its way. New Mexico’s Route 66 communities big and small sported the aesthetic of the time. Diners and motels slanted into the horizon with deco profiles, complemented the landscape with colorful mid-century paint jobs, and lit up the dark desert night with the atomic glow of neon signs welcoming in road weary travelers. Blue-winged Biscaynes and candy-apple red Chevelles colored the asphalt like a speckling of gemstones against black velvet. And at the tips of everyone’s fingertips opportunity jingled like dinner rings.

“I began to see the road as a beautiful mother and we were all her children,” says Ruth. “The neon was her jewelry — coral earrings tucked against her dark hair, turquoise necklaces at her tan throat, soft hands decorated in green and pink stones.”

Ruth, a self-proclaimed “spitfire,” credits the route for inspiring her to venture away from home, go to college and learn about her world, things, she says, that were still uncommon for women of color to do back then.

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“The ‘Mother Road’ brought people together, helped them get where they were going, and picked them up when they fell,” she says. “We would help people who broke down in Tucumcari. My father would drive them over to our house and my mother would feed them. We got to meet a lot of different kinds of people this way and it helped me understand that there was a bigger world out there.”

The afternoon passes and Ruth tells me more about coming of age in a time caught between tradition and revolution along the most famous road in America. As I sit and listen to her I begin to realize something very important.

It is this layering of memory that creates a legacy. It is what preserves a place, or an object and gives it meaning in an ever-changing world. Just as Route 66 created a legacy through the jewels that she wore, so too do the women that she’s touched. As women, our stories create memories that create legacies. Some stories are spoken, while some stories are merely worn.

Shop Our Route 66 Bracelet here:

https://americanwestjewelry.com/product/classics-sterling-silver-route-66-multicolor-charm-bracelet/

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Our New Adventure Begins

We at American West Jewelry are excited to unveil our new brand! For several months we have been hard at work exploring who we are and what makes us unique. We have embraced our origins, dusted off our roots and reimagined the future to bring to life our new American West identity.

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New Mexico proudly—and rightfully—claims the oldest recorded history in what are now the United States. Indigenous peoples flourished here for centuries before the arrival of Spanish explorers and, much later, Anglo settlers. All have contributed from their cultures—women and men equally—to create the hearty blend New Mexico now offers. But it is the courageous women that American West Jewelry honors through our collections.

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The unique traditions and stunning landscapes of New Mexico have long attracted women of an adventuresome heart. Some are well known—Mabel Dodge Lujan, Georgia O’keeffe, Agnes Martin—while most remain unsung heroines. But all were possessed of a pioneering nature that drew them to the blue skies and sweeping vistas of the high desert. It is this spirit of quest and adventure that informs and inspires the artisans of American West Jewelry.

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We celebrate that glorious gift of individuality in every piece of jewelry we hand craft. Drawing on the diversity of our multi-cultural heritage we design and create artifacts that reflect our close connection to Mother Earth and the Southwest. And that respect and honor the spark of the free-spirited, emboldened women who wear them. We make them as art—long a way of life here.

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American West Jewelry is on a journey of our own. A mission to create heirloom pieces that empower women, bonding them across all cultures and down through all generations—grandmother to mother to daughter. Jewelry that will live on in families and create a lore of its own. Jewelry that will be made in New Mexico by a growing studio of new artisans we are training to continue the ancient tradition of our ancestors. Legendary keepsakes from the Land of Enchantment.

Hold onto your hats and dig in your heels, the adventure begins with #AWYou!

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#AWYou & Yours

Happy Holidays!
This year we asked some of our team here at American West what their favorite New Mexico holiday tradition is. The answers were as varied and colorful as a Christmas tree!
We all celebrate this time of year a bit differently, and that is what makes it such a rich, cultural experience, no matter where you live or how you celebrate the season of joy, loved, and sharing.
Since we pride ourselves on our unique take to every single holiday — cue the red chile please — we thought we’d share our list of the top ways to celebrate Christmas in New Mexico.
Chicos and red chile, followed by biscochitos! Chicos is a dried corn soup that we eat on Christmas. We bake the whole cob in the horno and hang it to dry. 
– Jody Naranjo, Pueblo artist & American West guest designer
Baking and decorating biscochitos with the women in the family.
– Lisa Benavidez, American West customer service representative
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Taking my 94 year-old grandpa to Christmas Mass in the little adobe church at the heart of our village.
– Ungelbah Davila, American West photographer
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Going to see the Christmas lights and searching for the best luminarias.
– Alex Montoya, American West Key Account Executive
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Putting up luminarias with my family. Luminarias are just paper bags with candles inside that you line walkways and other surfaces with. They are simple, and seemingly dangerous, yet a Christmas icon in New Mexico.
– Larry Shivers, American West model

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Getting all my nephews to come over and make ornaments for their aunties, uncles, parents and grandparents. We teach that it’s not about the cost of a gift, but the thought, heart and time spent making something personalized for those you love.
– Monique Candelaria, American West model
A ritual re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem in their search for a place to stay. It takes place the 9 days leading up to Christmas. The tradition takes place at different people’s houses within the community, which we join for prayer, singing and food.
– Louisa Escovedo, merchandising sales planner
Traveling to Santa Fe to participate in the Christmas Eve farolito walk on Canyon Road. We enjoy hugging our children and running from bonfire to bonfire to keep warm, while singing songs and drinking hot apple cider.
– Lily Nguyen, American West graphic designer

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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.

Deb Ebeling is #AWYou

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Deborah Edgren-Ebeling is the face behind our shop at the stunning Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. The Carolyn Pollack Gallery, which also houses a huge selection of American West Jewelry, is located inside the Texan and just a quick 5 minute hop from DFW airport.

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Deborah tells us that more than a few American West Jewelry collectors even plan long layovers on their way through Dallas just so they’ll be able to slip over to the gallery and pick out a new treasure or two.

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“We’re always here,” says Deborah. “We’re always willing to share stories and our special stock. We just dig through jewelry and play in jewelry all day! It’s truly a delight.”

During her time at the gallery, Deborah has done more than just share jewelry with women. She’s forged lifelong friendships and become a part of what has developed into a powerful sisterhood of women across the country that come together over a common love of jewelry.

 


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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.

New Mex-Giving

Here in New Mexico, we love Thanksgiving as much as anyone! But we tend to do a few things differently. Where most of the country is dishing up brown or white gravy, we roll out the red.  And for dessert, expect to find a green chile apple pie and some pumpkin empanadas!

Here are a few of our favorite, time-tested New Mex-giving delicacies to add a little spice to your menu this year.

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Red Chile Gravy

Ingredients
3 tbsp Olive Oil or Shortening
1/2 cup Chile Powder
2 tbsp flour
2 cups Water
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan or skillet, melt shortening or warm the olive oil over low to medium heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown (approximately 4 minutes) making a roux as a base for the Red Chile Sauce.
  3. Once the roux has turned a golden brown, over medium heat, whisk in the Red Chile Powder.
  4. When the roux and chile powder have been blended completely, add water and cook to desired consistency. Add in salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt, whisk, and serve.

 

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Pumpkin Empanadas

Ingredients
3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup white sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup warm water
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 egg
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, beaten

Instructions

Prep 40 min Cook 20 min Ready 60 min

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking powder. Cut shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water about 2 tablespoons at a time, just until the dough comes together. Knead a few times in the bowl, then scrape out onto a floured surface. Cut dough in quarters and cut each quarter into thirds to make 12 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover with a cloth and allow to rest while preparing the filling.
  3. Mix pumpkin, 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together until smooth. On a floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a thin circle about 6 inches across. Spoon about 1/3 cup of filling into the center, fold dough over the filling to make a half-moon shape, and crimp the edges together with a fork. Carefully transfer empanadas to prepared baking sheets. Brush the top of each with beaten egg.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crusts are shiny and golden brown.

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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.

AW Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

In honor of November being Native American heritage month, we would like to introduce you to some of the award-wining Native American artists and jewelers that have partnered with us to guest design stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces for American West Jewelry.

Jody Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo

Just this September, Jody was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award for her excellence in the arts. She is celebrated for her contemporary pottery that often incorporates strong female motifs and whimsical animal designs. Two of her most recent pots were the inspiration behind some of our new jewelry pieces, shich you can see more of here: https://americanwestjewelry.com/?s=naranjo&post_type=product

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Kenneth Johnson , Muscogee/Seminole

Kenneth is an accomplished metalsmith recognized for his bold combinations of stampwork and engraving that often incorporate coins and bead set gemstones.  This year he took first place in the earring category at the Santa Fe Indian Market for a pair of 23KT gold coin earrings. Some of his designs for American West include these gorgeous sterling Gorget Drop Earrings:  https://americanwestjewelry.com/product/kenneth-johnson-sterling-silver-silver-gorget-drop-earrings/

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Fritz Casuse, Navajo

Fritz has become well known for his complex, handcrafted masterpieces that can best be described as wearable sculptures. This year he, too, took first place at the Santa Fe Indian Market in the ring category.  His fluid, three-dimensional style has found its way into his designs with us, as well, which you can see more of here: https://americanwestjewelry.com/?s=fritz&post_type=product

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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.

#AWYou Deb Haaland for Congress

This month we find ourselves inspired by a woman who is pushing New Mexico to the forefront of history. Shortly before 10 p.m. on June 5, Debra Haaland celebrated her first victory on her path to Washington in a campaign that is growing the way all sacred things grow, from the ground up. With standing room only in her Albuquerque campaign office Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman, took the Democratic nomination for the state’s 1st Congressional District, positioning her to be the country’s first Native American woman in Congress. Next up, the general election on November 6, 2018, where a victory would mean a landmark event for a country that less that 100 years ago didn’t allow Native Americans the right to vote.

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Deb, pictured above, wearing the Native American artist Jody Naranjo’s Critter Cuff

Today, Haaland headquarters still teems with excitement. As I arrive to meet Haaland I find her surrounded by a team of young people, all working with passionate millennial enthusiasm. The atmosphere is electric with a feeling of purpose, of community and pride, of selflessness and passion, all which carry over into my conversation with Haaland, who greets me with a welcoming, dimpled smile that reminds me of aunts and kitchens and lessons on how to walk in beauty.

“On election night I said, ‘this is a victory for women, a victory for working people, a victory for Indian country,’” says Haaland. “And that meant a lot to the Native folks that have worked with me on this campaign and who I’ve advocated with in making our issues front and center. ”

During a powerful TED Talk in 2016 Haaland, a child of a Pueblo and Norwegian-American military family and single mother to one daughter, asked a room full of women, “Who speaks for you?”  Throughout her campaign she has maintained a powerful message of advocacy for women. Today as we sit together, I am in awe of how gracefully Haaland stands on the cusp of being one of the most powerful voices in the country for women and people of color. Her power, I observe, is in her truth. It is her ability to relate that makes her a dangerous opponent.

“I’ve felt for a long time that we need people in office who have experienced ‘the struggle,’” says Haaland, whose platform includes fighting for medicare, 100% renewable energy, women’s equality, and a permanent solution for DREAMers. “I’m proud to know what it’s like to rely on food stamps, and wait at the Indian hospital to get healthcare, and things like that… I can’t speak for my tribe or anyone’s tribe but I have all of that history and perspective behind me, and that’s where my voice will come from.”

To know Haaland is to know where her voice began, amongst the cornfields and red earth mesas of Laguna Pueblo. It is there, she says, that she spent hours watching her grandmother work to prepare the food that her grandfather grew. It was there that she learned about hard work.

Emotion takes over as Haaland talks about her grandmother, who the U.S. government sent over 100 miles from home to boarding school when she was just 8 years old.

“She went through a lot of hardship; both my grandparents when through a lot of hardship preserving our culture and tradition for us because the world was changing and they recognized that. So at the same time they were protecting our traditions they were encouraging us to get an education and be a part of the change. That was their way of ensuring that we would have a future for our people,” says Haaland, also reflecting on her mother who worked for 25 years as a federal employee in Indian education.

Haaland says she also admires the work of  Kalyn Free (Choctaw) and Ada Deer (Menominee), who both ran for Congress during their careers and advocated for Indian issues, laying the groundwork for women like herself.

With an impressive career behind her and even bigger things to come, Haaland has already earned her spot on the list of inspiring female “sheros.” She says her advice for young women who have a dream that may seem impossible is to keep getting out there and to not take no for an answer.

For more information about Deb Haaland, visit: www.debforcongress.com


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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.

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.


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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.