Our Earth Spirit is Luxury, the Ethical Way

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From our recycled metals, to our nature-inspired designs, to the gem stones that the earth blesses us with, to the living wages we provide our team – at American West Jewelry we pride ourselves on giving our collectors next-to-nature, ethical luxury they can believe in. We know that the women who collect our jewelry are women just like us, conscious of the world around them and passionate about protecting the things that matter to them. We understand that knowing were their dollars are going and who and what they are affecting are important to them. We know that from their food to their jewelry, investing in their beliefs is not just a fad, it’s a way of life, because it’s a way of life for us, too.

So many of our collections are inspired by nature and the land around us, which for many on our team – and for many of you – is a land where their families have been rooted for more generations than we can count. Regardless, the earth has always been our home, and always will be. We love our planet and we love the spiritual connection that happens when we walk barefoot across her, when we feel her sunshine kiss us, her breeze hug us, her stars blanket us, her animals serenade us.

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When we created the Earth Spirit Collection our hearts were full of love for our land and her many extraordinary gifts. We chose stones that reminded us of summer sunsets and lakeside adventures. We sat and stared at at a full moon rising above a mountain crest, we listened to the haunting melody of an owl, and we studies the movements of wildflowers after a rain. We sketched and experimented, and explored as we designed, playing the way children play, rejoicing in the discovery of our own imagination. And slowly, bit by bit, the jewelry took shape, each piece a piece of love, each design an homage to life on this big, blue, beautiful ball. Now we offer the Earth Spirit Collection to you, friends we may never meet but sisters all the same.

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Ceinwen Carrejo is #AWYou

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Meet New Mexico artist Ceinwen Carrejo, owner of The Fiber Room, and our June #AWYou featured artist. #AWYou is our latest project in which we find New Mexicans whom we feel embrace and represent the spirit of American West Jewelry. From her love of history and nature to her free spirit, when we met Ceinwen we knew she fit the ticket.

At home in her studio, Ceinwen whose name comes from her Welsh ancestry, sits at her 100 year old Leclerc treadle loom conducting what feels like a primordial rhythm of creation. Feet and hands, feet and hands, a piece of cloth slowly forms before her like magic. At her feet lays her beloved dog, who looks more coyote than hound, and around her the walls display spools of hand dyed yarn.

“I am in love with the process of weaving and how the pattern is inherent to the structure of the piece,” she says. “It’s literally all interwoven.”

Ceinwen began learning the art of weaving in high school, and today owns a successful online store called The Fiber Room where she sells her handmade work to people around the world.

Click here to shop Ceinwen’s look

 

She tells me her work is based around nature from the animals that produce the wool to the natural material she harvests herself to dye it.

“It is a craft rooted in tradition,” she says.

Being amongst her tools and hearing her passion for this ancient craft, I recall time spent with my own grandmother, a traditional Navajo weaver who also worked with natural materials to produce a similar kind of art. For my and my grandmother’s people, it was a holy deity who in the form of a spider who taught the Navajo to weave. Online I find a similar story amongst the Welsh and am reminded that in every pocket of the world the process of weaving is as ancient as it is sacred. Woven cloth was after all often the difference between life and death.

As I invade her creative space with my camera and my questions, I discover what it is that truly connects Ceinwen to the #AWYou campaign. It is bringing the crafts of our ancestors into a modern market without loosing the reverence for the work. But it is understanding the connection between the earth and her people, and how selflessly she gives of herself so that we are able to survive.

“I am inspired by the magic that comes out of the earth,” Ceinwen says. “I’m inspired by the plants, the minerals – the unapologetic power of nature.”

Connect with Ceinwen and The Fiber Room online: Instagram @thefiberroom & www.etsy.com/shop/TheFiberRoom

Shop Ceinwen’s #AWYou look here:

Summer Along the Turquoise Trail: Pt. 1

Summer means road trip time! New Mexico is a gold mine of destination day-trips and one of our favorites happens to be the Turquoise Trail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Named for one of our favorite things in the world, the Turquoise Trail got its name for the rich turquoise deposits that were found and mined along the 52-mile byway.

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In today’s blog we will take you to stop numero uno along this famous road — Madrid. The first thing you have to know about Madrid is that the locals pronounce it with a hard “a,” rather than the Spanish lilt of its namesake. This is just the first of many eccentricities that make “Mad-rid” a true hidden gem nestled in a canyon in the Ortiz Mountains. Founded in in 1869, Madrid found itself a large scale coal mine by the 1980s when the railroad arrived.

 Today it is home to about 400 residents and has become a ghost town reimagined as a quaint and quirky artists’ haven. In the village you will find several bustling galleries, shops, and the notoriously haunted Mine Shaft Tavern. The Mine Shaft is the pulse of the village, a fun and friendly meeting spot for locals and out-of-towners. With delicious food, good drinks, and great live music – including some well known traveling acts – the Mine Shaft is worth the visit alone.

 

At this unique waterin’ hole don’t be surprised to find the town dog (who belongs to everyone and no one) wandering from table to table politely looking for a treat. Or, strike up a conversation with the self-appointed town marshal who regularly dresses in Wyatt Earp-esque attire. Or plan your visit accordingly and immerse yourself in the color and culture of one of the town’s many festivals, such as the Gypsy Festival on June 23, or the CrawDaddy Blues Fest on May 19-20.

 Don’t plan a trip to Madrid unless you’re prepared to enjoy some art. At the Gypsy Gem you can find a large selection of rare New Mexico turquoise, while at the Indigo Gallery you can enjoy local fine art and jewelry, or hop over to the Metallo Gallery and shop their unique metal work and other eclectic art.

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Pack your camera and your adventure and embark to stop one on the trail, and shop the look HERE for our Summer Along the Turquoise Trail look!

Motherhood: Our Most Precious Story 

Jewelry shared between women creates a special, unwritten story. This Mother’s Day, we invite you to add to you and your mother’s own unique tale with a surprise that will carry with it a lifetime of meaning.

Mothers are women that are girls at heart, in love with pretty, sparkly things as much now as when they were babies themselves, cooing and groping for their mother’s earrings. Perhaps their own mommas held them in their arms, letting them play with long strands of silver beads and big turquoise rings, amused by their inherent fascination.

And perhaps those same little fingers that were so drawn to the mysterious objects adorning the secret world of women grew into the hands of wise mothers, skilled in the ways of nurturing, loving, forgiving and fixing. Perhaps those hands grew to define the women who then passed on that secret feminine world to their own daughters in the form of coveted rings, bold pendants, and dramatic earrings — the objects that decorate the tools for loving.

Our Earth Spirit Collection is a specially curated group that allows us to gift our mothers with elements from the greatest momma of them all, our Mother Earth. From the designs to the stones themselves, this collection is designed in reverence to the feminine power that makes life on this planet possible. We are excited to share them with you and for the chance to be a part of one of the most precious stories ever told — the story of motherhood.

 

Rock Your Stones!

My mother has always told me that turquoise will never go out of style. Our family is Navajo and between my grandmother, mother, and four aunts we have enough communal turquoise to sink a ship. I joke that when my grandmother crosses over, we will open her closet to discover a secret cave overflowing with turquoise jewelry like a dragon’s lair.

It turns out turquoise has been in fashion for over 3,000 years, so I guess once again, momma’s right. With a history this old, turquoise has more than just staying power, it’s part of our human legacy. In cultures across the globe, this ocean-like gem has been used in art, personal adornment, and ceremony for eons. The ancient Egyptians, whom I like to call our fashionista forefathers, were no strangers to turquoise jewelry. Native Americans are perhaps most well known for our reverence of this sky-colored stone, but our distant relatives in Asia also have a long-standing relationship with turquoise. The Chinese, whose homeland is a major source of turquoise, have used the stone in their art and jewelry for centuries.

 

 A couple of years ago, my father visited the Buddhist country of Buhtan, nestled high in the Himalayans, which in my opinion is about as far away from New Mexico as a person can get. He returned with prayer beads and a prayer wheel, both accented with turquoise, and a book that showed the smiling faces of little Buhtanese boys and girls that looked like they could be my cousins!

 Perhaps one reason this precious stone seems to connect people around the planet is that it is found in many different countries. Here in the American Southwest, we are home to the famed Kingman Turquoise known for its bright blue tone and characteristic veining, along with the vividly blue Sleeping Beauty stones, and a handful of rare stones from now-closed mines including Lone Mountain, Number 8, and our very own Cerrillos mine. The icy-blue Larimar is one of the most rare and highly sought after turquoise stones in the world and comes from the remote Barahona region in the Dominican Republic.

 Rich in turquoise, China has mined it for 2,000 years and now accounts for over 60% of stones used today. Some of the finest stones originated in this beautiful country, including the deep blue-green Cloud Mountain Turquoise with its dramatic black matrix. Historically the bluer the turquoise the more sought after, but today green stones are being given the credit they deserve for their own striking tones. Like their blue sisters, these green stones can be sourced from mines in Nevada as well as China with little very little differences in their appearance.

 At American West Jewelry we of course love our turquoise and enjoy finding new and interesting sources for it to keep our stones as unique as our jewelry. While we may be best known for our striking Sleeping Beauty Collection, we also craft a large selection of breathtaking pieces using high quality green stones. But no matter which stone you decide to take home, I think this ancient Arabic proverb sums up our turquoise mission perfectly: “Turquoise given by a loving hand carries with it happiness and good fortune.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling in Always in Style: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Here in New Mexico we draw so much inspiration from the landscape and have such a deep connection to and love for the land that this day always holds a special place in our hearts. We have a large variety of natural resources here that we feel a partial responsibility to protect. Whether it be our water or our forests, we want to make sure that our children and grandchildren have the chance to play among these natural wonders, just as we did growing up.

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We are also big on renewable energy around here. According to the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, we have some of the best wind, geothermal and solar resources in the U.S. That’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone that has ever visited or lived here. At this moment the sun is pouring onto my desk and I hear leaves and wind chimes making music outside. These resources are dear to us, too, even when we complain about them on those dusty, blistering days.

 The large Native American population in New Mexico also keeps us mindful of the beautiful Indigenous belief that it is our job to protect the environment for the next seven generations. These are all just a few of the reasons that American West Jewelry prides itself on using 100% reclaimed silver in all of our jewelry. We recognize that metal mining is one of the most environmentally destructive types of mining out there, as well as very dangerous and low paying to the miners involved. So, we opt to cast our jewelry with recycled and refined precious metals, which still have the same high quality as newly mined metals due to the high-tech way they are reclaimed.

The use of recycled precious metals is an important part of American West Jewelry’s commitment to the earth and to the creation of ethical luxury. So as you deck out in your favorite AW pieces today, you can do so knowing you’ve chosen to decrease environmental destruction, and that is a fashion that will never go out of style!

We Put the Culture in Agriculture!

Did you know that New Mexico is home to 24,000 farms and 43.9 million acres of farmland? Me either until I started to research this blog. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Southwestern New Mexico, were we ran several head of critters across six sections of land, in a place where you could go days without having to talk to another human being (reasons I became a writer.) I always thought I was the odd girl out. Turns out there are more rural-living folk in New Mexico than there are city slickers! I guess this is why come the first warm day of the season I’m outside in flip flops and tank top elbow deep in dirt. Like so many of us in this great nation, planting, growing, and getting dirty is where I feel most at home.

This is why I am so excited to write this blog on spring agriculture in New Mexico, because this is, literally, life for me. These days I own what us millennials call a “micro-farm,” which is basically a ¾ acre lot with a swimming pool, on the outskirts of the big city. It is here that every spring I get down and dirty.

I start out with simple intentions, like going to the local Quality Bait and Pond for 100 earthworms to put in my garden plot. But I undoubtedly end up leaving with a dozen little peepers, too, because dogonit fluffy babies are irresistible (and no one complains later about those fresh eggs, either.)

 A veterinarian recently asked me why I all of a sudden decided to start dragging home stray animals, and I told him, “Doc, it ain’t all of a sudden. More like since I could walk!” You see, growing up a ranch kid in an isolated neck-of-the-woods means, for lots of us that were raised that way, that our first best friends are a critter of some sort. That animal bond follows you through life until it gets where you don’t feel right unless you’re being woken up at the crack of dawn by a rooster or a Guinea hen (of which I bough four.)

Agriculture is a way of life, yes, but I believe it is also a compulsion — albeit a good one. Whether you find yourself smack dab in the middle of LA dragging home strays and planting tomatoes in pots on the window sill, or you’re like me and walk your miniature goat to the local dairy to say “hi” to the cows and visit the pigs, a love of life forms other than human is a beautiful thing. It is a sacred thing.

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When I was four I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I ended up a writer. But I tell you what, being a part of a team like American West Jewelry wakes me up every day blessed, because we share the same roots. We love the same way of life, the same traditions, art forms, and stories that give our state (and country) so much charterer. Because we are, well, American made, just like the land, plants and critters we love. And that is just one thing about it all that makes me #AWYou.

Jody Naranjo is #AWYou  

Nothing makes American West Jewelry more beautiful than the women who wear it. The moon-like smile of your eyes, the curve of your neck caught in a laugh, the artistry in the imperfection of your hands that tell stories words could never capture. These are the real gems and jewels that give our jewelry its value. This is why we’ve created our #AWYou series to showcase the amazing women in our community and abroad that bring spirit and life to what we do. We want to tell the amazing stories that make American West, well, You.

This month’s #AWYou celebrates the work and achievements of award-winning potter Jody Naranjo. We layered Jody in some of our favorite new pieces and set her loose in her Albuquerque studio to do what she does best. Jody is a beautiful Tewa potter of Santa Clara Pueblo, NM, whose work often depicts strong female and nature based themes. Her pottery, which she has been selling since she was just 15 years old, is produced in the traditional way using clay earth gathered from various location in the area, hand coiling, and pit firing.

 As 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 daughters. Jody has what I call “smiling hands.” Whether she is mixing her clay, polishing a pot, or etching in a design of one of her Pueblo girls, they do it with an eminence of joy. They are happy hands, hands that have spent their life doing what they love, hands that have raised daughters and created a million works of art that have blessed a million more with smiles. These are the hands of a creator, of a mother, of a friend.

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 When we think of the ways in which Jody embodies who we are at American West Jewelry, we think of her fearlessness in honoring herself and her gifts. We think of the many ways she has shared these blessings with the people in her life, whether they be family or strangers. We too celebrate that independent spirit that drives women to carve out their own legacy. To be their own unique, vibrant person. It is this spirit that has shaped our American west.

 To become a part of our #AWYou series, please share photos of yourself in your favorite American West jewelry to any of our social media platforms, using the #AWYou hashtag, and tell us what makes American West Jewelry unique to you! We look forward to hearing from you.

Charmed by Santa Fe’s Muse

For generations, Santa Fe, New Mexico, has inspired and moved people’s spirits in all aspects of creation. English writer D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda came to New Mexico in the early ‘20s upon an invitation from wealthy arts patron Mabel Dodge Lujan. Of his time here he sums up this enchanted place far better than most.

 “I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever. Curious as it may sound, it was New Mexico that liberated me from the present era of civilization, the great era of material and mechanical development,” writes Lawrence.

 “But the moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend. There was a certain magnificence in the high-up day, a certain eagle-like royalty…”

 I believe anyone who has gazed upon Santa Fe and her majestic horizon will feel stirred by the accuracy of those words. The poetry of this landscape is tangible. For it is here that so much art has been birthed — a world mecca of creation. And for this reason, it is no wonder that Santa Fe’s mysterious muse, too, has touched us. Our Santa Fe Charms Collection, handcrafted of turquoise, coral and pearl, is just one wearable expression that has come from our time here.

Designer Carolyn Pollack will tell you that an enchanted evening in this treasured city spoke to her and from this moment came this collection. “Here there is an artful approach to style that naturally balances boldness, sophistication, wit and elegance,” she says.

 “Always the perfect pair, fiery red coral and romantic blue turquoise have long been the heart of Santa Fe’s vibrant lifestyle. Cultured pearl and golden brass add the perfect glow while under the starlit sky at the opera. The reversible charms add spirit through iconic, gallery inspired symbols of the southwest. Santa Fe Charms was designed to inspire you to express your uniquely beautiful, spirited style!”

The Greenest Day in New Mexico

Dust off your green jeans and slip on your gold naja! In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we are excited to explore the history of the Irish in New Mexico.

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During the famine of the 1800s many Irish fled their motherland, arriving on our eastern shores in search of a new life in the New World. Many stayed in cities such as Boston and New York, while others headed west in search of more opportunity, such as the chance to own land – something rarely achieved in Ireland.

Also in search of religious freedom and acceptance, many Irish gravitated toward the more Catholic-friendly region of the Southwest, then owned by Mexico. It is here where for centuries to come the Irish would become an important part of history. In fact, when New Mexico became a state in 1912, its first governor was an Irishman named William G. McDonald.

 As western expansion boomed, many Irish made the trip west, becoming the largest ethnic group of workers for the Eastern Pacific railway. Irish Sister Catherine Mellon and the Sisters of Charity were the driving force behind the establishment of the state’s first hospital, St. Vincent’s, and St. Elizabeth’s Shelter for the Homeless, both still in existence today in Santa Fe. Of course throughout history, New Mexico’s two most famous Irish residents have been Billy the Kid and Georgia O’Keeffe.

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Although there is little recorded history on the matter, it seems quite possible that the Irish also lived amongst the Navajo. Many old, well-known trading posts near the Navajo Nation were named for their founders, and include Irish surnames such as John Murphy, Ellis Tanner, Perry Null, Whelan, and Bill Malone. Traders, Irish and otherwise, had a profound impact on the indigenous economy by introducing a capitalism as it was never before experienced. Because of the advent of the trading post things such as weaving, silversmithing and jewelry making became more than artistic or utilitarian crafts. They became valuable commodities that could be traded or sold for currency. It can be said that trading posts in large part created the art market in New Mexico that is still in existence today, and to which we at American West Jewelry are a part of.

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So today, for all this and more, we say “thank you” to the Irish, whom in New Mexico I think are best summed up in this lovely quote by Eilis Flynn: “We survive. We’re Irish. We have the souls of poets. We love our misery, and we delight in the beauty of strange places…”