“I don’t create the jewelry. It’s like the beauty of the stones direct me how to use them”
— Hopi artist Sonwai
SANTA FE — Hopi artist Sonwai will be exhibiting work at Shiprock Santa Fe gallery during Indian Market week. She held a special opening event Thursday, August 21, 2 – 4 p.m. at the gallery. Sonwai is the artistic name used by Verma Nequatewa.
Verma began working with her uncle, the late Charles Loloma, in the mid-1960’s and continued working with him, becoming his stone-setter, until his studio closed in the early 1990’s. Loloma was the most famous Native American jewelry artist of his time. After Loloma’s studio closed in 1988, Sonwai opened her own studio and has been continuing his teachings through her own jewelry.
“My life and my jewelry have been greatly influenced by two things,” Sonwai says. “The first is by my good fortune to have grown up and to continue to live on the Hopi Reservation. This enables me to witness the grandeur of the landscape on a daily basis and to be involved constantly in the ceremonial activities that are constantly taking place here. The second major influence is that of my uncle, Charles Loloma.”
Sonwai has brought her own special look and feminine qualities to her jewelry line. A world class jeweler who works primarily in 18 karat gold, she uses only the finest quality stones, including but not limited to coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli, opal, charolite, ironwood and sugilite, as well as diamonds, colored pearls and fossilized ivory. Using a variety of inlay and metal-working techniques, Nequatewa creates her elegant contemporary jewelry for private collectors and museum institutions around the world.
“The most important thing that I learned was about the stones themselves,” Sonwai says. “How to work the stone and study the stone. Actually, I don’t create the jewelry. It’s like the beauty of the stones direct me how to use them.”