Hello, my name is Nicholas “Nick” Nez. I am a Native American from the Diné (Navajo) Tribe. I am from the Black Streak wood people and born for the Coyote Pass clan. I spent most of my life on the Navajo Nation Reservation in a small town called Chinle which is in Northeastern Arizona, USA. I am happily married and have 3 daughters and 1 son. For the past 9 years I have been working full time as an AEMT (Advance Emergency Medical Technician) with the Navajo Nation. Prior to my EMS career, I have made several pieces of jewelry but did not continue due to having the responsibility of starting a family at a young age and made it an obligation to work full time. One of the pieces though, being a butterfly pendent/necklace won 1st place in the 2009 Navajo Nation fair art contest. Currently, I have been slowly working on buying and getting my tools back together for the past I would say 2 years.
Through out my time with EMS, I have been coming up with designs and drawing sketches of modern/ contemporary jewelry with a Native American flair. I have numerous sketch books full of beauty and I am now wanting to share it with the world. The designs that I come up with have no significant meanings to the Native American community but its wearable native art. I am a first generation silversmith and basically self taught. I have found that when I design a piece, all my lines/curves have to flow in a way that makes the piece unique and one of a kind. I make handmade jewelry with the overlay technique and also have been working with tufa casting. I work with heavy gauge sterling silver and multiple styles of stones.
I use the overlay technique to make a wonderful piece of art. The overlay technique consists of two pieces of silver that are soldered together. The top plate features a design, hand cut out of a sheet of silver and is placed on top of the second piece of silver. Keep in mind, the cut out is carefully filed and every edge is made as straight as possible as if a machine cut it. Once soldered together, the piece is formed into a bracelet, a bolo tie, pendent or other types jewelry. Now comes the fun part, when you work with the overly technique there is a thing called fire-scale, this happens when you are soldering and the copper out of the silver turns a reddish brown color on the silver piece. This it is hard to take out but with a lot of patience and determination you can wipe it out. Now to the buffing machine, taking out the scratches large/small, some leftover fire-scale and not to mention your hot fingers burning while holding a hot piece of silver (most people wear gloves). “I always get this question, how do you make the black part of your jewelry?” It’s a simple answer really, I use a liquid patina that makes the metal black. If there is a stone that needs to be set it is carefully done and could be tedious if you were working with 16 gauge bezels or thicker without the proper tools. “A nicely set stone on a terrible looking piece can bring life back to the jewelry” is what a friend told me. Finally, everyone’s favorite part: polishing. Polishing jewelry at a high finish could be difficult due to not wanting to round out the edges of your peace. Lights, camera, action! I take all my pictures myself, I don’t have the latest and greatest fancy Canon camera. All you need is some good light and an iPhone. This process is done throughout 3-6 week period depending on the size and technicality of the jewelry. Not to mention I do work full-time also. I’m sure top caliber jewelers would agree with me that “it’s not the quantity that you make, it’s the quality and the effort you put in that makes you the happiest when you finish a nice piece of jewelry."