Masters of Their Crafts
One-on-one visits with artists along the trail provide opportunities to learn more about each artist's inspiration, how he or she works, and become acquainted with the materials used to create each piece of artwork—cottonwood root for carving a Kachina doll, matchstick ends for painting pots, and yucca plants for weaving baskets, to name a few.
While each of the artists will do custom work, they might have certain restrictions related to the culture. Michael "Coyote" George, a Kachina doll carver, will carve rare and custom figures, but not priests or chiefs. "They are sacred," he says.
Silversmith Roy Talahaftewa is known for making concha as well as his own stamping tools, but he also works with tufa casting, a process where a lightweight, easy-to-carve stone called tufa (locally quarried) is used to create molds for silver jewelry designs. Talahaftewa's intricate and unique designs might feature corn and water or feather designs that he draws by hand, as well as the use of turquoise and other natural stones. In the summer, he hosts classes at his gallery for artists and visitors alike.
Some gallery owners schedule hands-on workshops, including Iskasokpu Gallery in Second Mesa. The gallery's co-owner, Iva Honyestewa, is extraordinary to watch create coiled basketry; the speed at which she weaves the fibers in and out is an experience in itself. She and her husband, Edward (a sculptor), also host a culinary experience right in their home kitchen. Here, you can taste indigenous foods such as mutton (sheep) stew or piki, a rolled, wafer-thin bread made out of blue corn meal, which is usually reserved for ceremonial purposes.
If you're invited into an artist's home, take them up on this honor. You also might be invited to join them for dinner or meet their family. You'll surely gain a glimpse of what life is like inside the Hopi home. See how they decorate; it's common for families to line the ceiling in the living room with Kachina dolls, including the ones given as gifts to their children while growing up. In many cases, water flows from ancient springs and generators provide power.
On such a visit, you might get a chance to hear from someone like Lawrence Namoki, a potter from Walpi, about how Hopi people came to live in this place they call the Fourth World. It's a beautiful story of love and faith that he illustrates in Hopi colors (blue, white, yellow, and red) and in clan symbols on his pottery.