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Interview conducted by Lisa Falk (ASM Director of Education) at the 2008 Southwest Indian Art Fair. Filmed and edited by Erich Healy.
Hi, I'm Lisa Falk, Director of Education at the Arizona State Museum and I'm here today with Allenroy Paquin. He's a silversmith and jeweler from Jicarilla Apache and Zuni, living in Albuquerque. He travels around on the powwow circuit because he's also an accomplished dancer, storyteller, flute player and singer and a man of many talents.
Today we're going to talk a little bit about his jewelry-making. Allen, can you tell me: I know you didn't start off as a jeweler. When you were growing up, what did you think you'd want to be? What did you pursue at first?
I really didn't have much of an idea; I started out as an artist. But because I experienced the struggle my Dad had when he started out as a jeweler, it was something that I didn't want to pursue, so that's why I went off to get an education. Later on, his art took off and he became very successful at it, but by that time I was already raising my own family.
And when he passed on, my mother gave me his tools and lapidary equipment. And it was at that time that I started to dabble in it and it took ahold of me and grabbed my interest. From then it went into a hobby, then a part-time business and eventually a full-time business. That's how I got into the art of jewelry.
And you're mainly a silversmith?
Can you describe a little bit of your process of working with silver?
Basically there are two methods that I use. One method is the tufa cast. This is a tufa block. It's like a tufa stone or pumice, but it's more dense. But it's still soft, so you carve your design in there and you have to think in a negative way because you're looking at the back of it.
And when you pour it, you're going to see the front of it come out the other side. And so when you carve this and put them together, you pour in your heated, molten silver and it takes that form when you break it open. You can pull out the design and get anywhere from maybe two to five casts on that depending on how it's cut.
The other method that I use is from sheet silver. And you can see how I can either layout the design this way or I'll draw the design on a piece of paper, glue that on there and then cut that out. From there after the design is cut, you can see what I've done here. I stamp little lines and designs into that piece and then file. And then from that point, you make your bezel for your stone - and this is the bezel here - and you just form that around the stone that you're going to use. You can see how I formed that to fit these stones here.
And then from that point, you put what's called flux on there and you solder a little piece molten solder on there and that bonds it together. And then from that point, you just solder it onto the piece here. On the backs for these, what these are going to be are pin/pendants. So I've made a little bale out of, again, sheet metal that I've cut and bent, and then I solder that onto there for the chain. And I also solder on these little pieces of the pin, which is a joint and a catch, and your pin will go in there.
Once that's soldered together, you put it in what is called a pickle. And that's an acid that cleans the silver and turns it white. And then once you take it out, you use some black oxidation, which turns it black and gets into the designs.
And from that point, you buff it and it buffs out all the blackness, the scratches and it leaves it a pure white, silver form, but it also leaves the indentation of the design in there that the black oxidation had filled in. You can see a finished piece here. And from this point, I go to buffer and buff this out and that brings the silver shine back in that finished piece.
And I see you have some stones here. Now do you buy these stones already polished and shaped or do you cut them yourself? What's your process with stones?
With stones there are two methods as well. You can buy the stones precut and they're called cabochons. They're cut to certain sizes and those are easy to work with. When you do inlay, such as this piece here, you buy the stone in a rough, raw form. You have to cut it to fit, and then again, sand it in different phases of sanding to get the shine back into those stones. This is a traditional Zuni method called inlay and that's how those work.
And when you place the stone or rather the...
When you place the cabochon or the rough, cut stones, do you use glue? How do you keep them in there?
With these you have to use a glue. It's a high epoxy glue that's very strong and that holds your stone in there. In order to get these stones back out, if you were to make a mistake or one were to crack while you were putting it in, you'd have to soak that in some acetone, or what they call "knock-it-loose", which loosens the glue and you can take it back out.
When you use a cabochon like this for the bezel, you can see how there are teeth on that. So when you set it in there, you put a little sawdust in there to cushion it and level that out. And when you push the teeth, the teeth are what hold the stone in place, you can place some glue in there to make sure it doesn't come out. For the most part, the bezel–the teeth on that–will hold that stone in place.
[pause in interview]
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about why you make jewelry and what it means to you?
Well it keeps my connection with my culture. It also allows me to educate people about our culture. There's always a need for education: for people that are coming by and don't realize what we do, as far as Natives. We think they think that we're all just one tribe, one people; when in fact there are approximately 557 nations just in the United States. So it allows us that opportunity to educate people and show them the difference among all the Native tribes.