FLAGSTAFF—Hotevilla artist Philbert Honanie took First Place and Best of Division in Traditional Carving at last weekend’s Indian Market in Santa Fe. Hotevilla is among the most traditional of Hopi villages, perched high atop Third Mesa in the remote recesses of northern Arizona. This was the second consecutive year that Honanie won both prizes.
"I try to carve Nature, I try to do things in the old style, use the old pigments, do things in the traditional way," a beaming Honanie explained. "It isn’t just me that deserves attention. All the people who have helped me, the traders at Winter Sun in Flagstaff and Tsuarkovi at Second Mesa, my customers who love the art for itself, all are a part of this."
Honanie explained that Second Mesa trader Joe Day encouraged him to go into doll carving ten or so years ago. "Back then, not many carvers were doing the traditional old Hopi style dolls. I was inspired by the collections of Voth [a Mennonite missionary who worked with the Hopi in the last century and both influenced and was heavily influenced by the Hopi] and collections in museums. Joe Day told me that almost no one was doing the old style, and while the market was small back then, I followed his advice and my own interests in my Hopi traditions, and now many people seek the old style dolls."
Honanie said he draws inspiration from Hopi tradition, from the spirits of Nature, the power of water and the land and sky itself.
"I use the cottonwood. I use the old pigmentation methods, I experiment with different colors and pigments and see which ones will stick to the dolls best," Honanie said. "I like this ancient media—it is a tradition given to us from the Creator. No one will ever take it away from us. Putting all of this together is a gift of Nature. In my art forms, I try to keep everything natural and as close to Nature as can be."
Honanie competed with three other carvers for the winning honors. They were Manuel Denet Chavarria, Jr. and Clark Tanakahongva.
"I met Philbert in 1982 when he was living his clan brother, Marvin Lomaheftewa. Marvin was carving and doing silver work in my store, Winter Sun," said Phyllis Hogan. "He would bring Philbert in to teach him. Philbert was only 16. He was a very respectful young man, and I have watched him go through some amazing changes over the years. I am very proud of him, and we are all thrilled for him."