Lorraine Waatsa

Lorraine Waatsa with Perry Null
Lorraine Waatsa with Perry Null

Perry Null Trading:

When did you make your first piece of jewelry?

Lorraine Waatsa:

(smiles) I started in 1971 when I was still living with my parents.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you remember what it was?

Lorraine Waatsa:

I still have it, it was a small cluster pendant. My second piece showed much improvement and I sold that to Tobe Turpen.

Perry Null Trading:

Who taught you how to make your jewelry?

Lorraine Waatsa:

I learned from both my parents and grandparents.

Perry Null Trading:

So you started making jewelry for a living. Who did you sell your art to?

Lorraine Waatsa:

Zuni didn’t have as many places as it does now. So I would come into Gallup a lot to sell my jewelry. All I can think of is Pueblo Arts and a Vanderwagen store in Zuni when I first started.

Perry Null Trading:

Did you have collectors and dealers that would find you in Zuni?

Lorraine Waatsa:

Yes, my mom had lots of customers who would come to her house and some of them would buy jewelry that I had made. Also, during the late 70s and 80s The Rocking Horse Ranch would buy lots of our jewelry.

Perry Null Trading:

Walk me through the process of how you go about making your cluster jewelry?

Lorraine Waatsa:

First, I spend lots of time separating stones so that I can match color and size. It depends what I am making, but if the piece is small I pick smaller stones, bigger pieces get bigger stones. This way I don’t have much waste.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you get your stones in Zuni?

Lorraine Waatsa:

I use to buy most of my stones in Zuni but now I get them here in Gallup, better selection of what I need.

Perry Null Trading:

I have always heard stories that stone dealers would set up shop in parking lots in Zuni and sell turquoise out of the truck, is this true?

Lorraine Waatsa:

We use to not have as many choices as we do now, so it was common in the 1970s and into the 1980s to buy stones this way. It usually happened every two weeks, someone would get a call that the turquoise seller was coming and we all would go meet him at the specified time. It was usually Kingman Turquoise.

Perry Null Trading:

So you have picked the rough turquoise or coral stones, what is next?

Lorraine Waatsa:

I start shaping the stones to get them closer to the shape I will need. I grind the stones on a 100 grit wheel without using any water. After I get the stone close to the shape I will use a sealing wax that I melt to a stick (size depends on the stone) and place the stone on the wax. Using the stick instead of my hands I am able to perfect the size of the stone.

Perry Null Trading:

That is lots of work for one stone. So, now you have the stone in the perfect size, do you start to bezel them?

Lorraine Waatsa:

No, I have patterns of the piece I am going to make so I already know what size I am going to need. The silver work is usually always done before I start the stone work.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you do all of the work?

Lorraine Waatsa:

My husband, Luwayne will usually do the silverwork, unless the piece is small and then I have to do all the work myself.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you remember a certain piece or order you have had that is unique?

Lorraine Waatsa:

In 1983 my sister Ruberta ordered a huge necklace. It was a challenge from the usual small pieces I make. I think she sold it or lost in pawn because I saw it for sale at one of the local Trading Post.

Perry Null Trading:

How about ribbons?

Lorraine Waatsa:

I have won blue ribbons from the Gallup Ceremonial.

Perry Null Trading:

So do most of your orders come from collectors/dealers finding you in Zuni?

Lorraine Waatsa:

No, mostly from dealers in Gallup or Zuni. A couple of months ago I had an order for 40 rings, that takes lots of time. I make jewelry fulltime, that is what I do.

Perry Null Trading:

Customers always ask about your mother, what can you tell us about her work?

Lorraine Waatsa:

She, along with my grandparents always told me to make quality not quantity. I still use many patterns that my mother made.

Perry Null Trading:

How about her hallmark, do you remember when she started using it, or your grandparents.

Lorraine Waatsa:

I started using my hallmark, LW, in the mid 1970s. My mother and grandparents started using their hallmarks in the late 1960s.

Perry Null Trading:

Thank you, look forward to seeing that coral cluster concho belt.

 

Ondelacy, Quam, Waatsa Family Tree
Ondelacy, Quam, Waatsa Family Tree