Winter Sun celebrates 15th annual Hopi carver show

Preserving a tradition features old-style Katsinam dolls

<i>Photo by S.J. Wilson/NHO<br>
Visitors to the Katsina Doll Carvers Show were interested in other forms of Hopi artwork. Larry Melendez discusses silver overlay with visitors.

<i>Photo by S.J. Wilson/NHO<br> Visitors to the Katsina Doll Carvers Show were interested in other forms of Hopi artwork. Larry Melendez discusses silver overlay with visitors.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.-Born of a desire to support the renaissance of the old-style Katsina Doll, Manuel Denet Chavarria's one-man carving show 15 years ago began the tradition of Winter Sun's annual Hopi Katsina Doll Carvers Show.

Owner Phyllis Hogan was the first downtown businessperson to work in conjunction with the Museum of Northern Arizona's Hopi Days, focusing on old-style carvers.

The event has expanded, featuring many old-style carvers annually. Winter Sun has hosted noted carvers including Philbert Honanie, Bertram Tsavadawa, Spike Satala, Nate Lomatewama, Jonah Hill, Ramson Lomatewama, Bendrew Atokuku and more.

"I wanted to support these younger carvers, who were interested in a return to tradition-not necessarily carving for tourists," Hogan explained. "I love the natural, softer pigments, the simplicity of form, and the fact that you can hang them on the wall. I enjoy taking them down and holding them. I enjoy sharing them with my customers and my friends."

Wayland Namingha Jr. was on hand Friday evening for his second year at the show.

"This is my first year living totally off of my carving," Namingha said. "I've been carving off and on for the past three years-but after hurting my back at my job, I went home to Kykotsmovi and have been carving full-time."

Part of the challenge of carving full-time is building up one's name and reputation, Namingha said.

"You have to let people know what you have; people have got to get to know who you are, and what your work is like," Namingha explained.

To date, Namingha largely sells to the Winter Sun Gallery and in galleries at Santa Fe and Phoenix.

"It's challenging trying to get gas money to be able to go out from the villages and sell yourself," Namingha said. "When you do get out to sell, some buyers want to obtain your carvings at the same price they were able to get it at before. Buyers have to hike up their wholesale prices, but they don't want artists [to do the same]. It's a no-win situation. We should be getting more for our work."

The changes in the economy have changed the way Namingha and other carvers are doing business.

"I try to stockpile as much as I can over a month, and then make a monthly trip to Phoenix and Santa Fe," Namingha said. "It's bad enough dealing with Bush's economy-tourists come in and try to finish the job.

"It's hard. You make friends out there, and they are nice people," Namingha said, explaining that he has often faced the situation where buyers tell him that they were able to buy similar pieces for less than his asking price and want him to lower his price to match.

"I don't sell myself short," Namingha continued. "I know why carvers are selling their pieces for less. In some of the villages there are problems with drugs and alcohol, and they will knock out pieces and sell them short just to get a buzz. I wish they would realize that they aren't just hurting themselves-they are hurting other carvers."

Namingha began carving after watching his father's silverwork when he was younger. Once he had children of his own, he was drawn to carving, and credits Philbert Honanie for helping him develop his own style.

"He showed me the ropes," Namingha said. "There are people out there afraid to show people new things, but Philbert is open to sharing."

One of the exciting moments of his career was when Namingha was able to show Honanie how he carved a certain yucca headband.

"It's neat that you can learn and then give some knowledge in return. It's very gratifying to have someone who's been in the business for so long recognize one of your own techniques."

Larry Melendez is a long-time Winter Sun featured carver-and was honored to see his carving of Hilili featured on this year's show poster.

Melendez said that of late he has spent his time working and carving-and trying not to use any gasoline.

"It's getting pretty crazy," Melendez laughed. "Everything everyone is making is going into the gas tank. People don't have the money to buy anything but food and gasoline."

Kurt Lomawaima has been carving for the past three years-and credits the gallery of Winter Sun for his inspiration.

"My desire to carve just started from coming into the shop," Lomawaima said. "I fell in love with the natural paint and thought I'd give it a try. It just takes practice."

Lomawaima is also a full-time carver, who also cares for his young son. He credits Hogan and his wife for providing sales venues for his work.

"The local shops in Cortez are not buying anymore," Lomawaima said. "The shop owners are saying it's due to the rising gas prices. But I've been lucky to sell to co-workers of my wife at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez."

Lomawaima and his family were visiting home in order to attend Home Dance-and were hoping to sell some of his carvings to pay for the gasoline for their visit.

"The rising price of food is also a problem," Lomawaima said. "People are more concerned with feeding their families than buying carvings."

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