The Learning Curve
Thank heavens we all have a learning curve. I remember walking into a store in Gallup, NM in 1975 and seeing a lovely little jet bear with a coral heartline and turquoise eyes. Turquoise BEAD eyes which I had not seen before. I asked the artist's name which of course they did not know.
Since I was unaware that Navajo carvers were reproducing Zuni fetishes then, I bought it. Then I found out it was Navajo by Juan Hashkie. And I found out that there was a shop in Gallup that primarily employed Navajo carvers to copy Zuni fetishes. Plus one of the telltale signs was bead eyes. Either turquoise, coral or shell. So what did I do with that first jet bear? I kept it, because I wanted to always remind myself that we all make mistakes when we start out, and we all hopefully learn from those mistakes.
Many people have collected Navajo "fetishes" over time. The main problem is there has long been a taboo about carving them among the Navajo. For them to carve them now breaks that taboo. Which is any artist's prerogative, but one I have chosen not to get involved in.
On the other hand all Pueblo peoples carve fetishes, but many tribes do not believe they should be sold. They believe instead they should be used solely for religious purposes. Obviously Zuni is not one of those Pueblos. I try to stay away from specific tribal taboos like that as well. Just another thing you learn over time.
So fortunately over many years one does get wiser. But in the interim, it's always good to find a dealer/trader you can truly trust.
6/14/2018 09:25:46 am
I was browsing an auction catalog last week and came upon a "Zuni fetish necklace" that was clearly NOT Zuni. I emailed the auction house and, by golly, they changed the listing (to a "Navajo zuni fetish necklace"). Amazing that they made the change, and immediately too!
9/11/2020 12:56:53 pm
Thanks for the advice to find a dealer you can trust when looking for Zuni fetishes. I love Native American carvings and fetishes. I'll look for a legit Zuni fetish dealer so I can get the real deal.
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