Watson is a major prize-winning jeweler especially noted for his intricate workmanship, the opulence of his designs – which record aspects of Hopi culture and life, and the virtuoso mixing of silver and gold.
His mentor and uncle, the late Fred Kabotie, was a founder of the “Hopi style” of jewelry and of the Hopi Guild, a training ground for many jewelers.
This spectacular bolo demonstrates Watson’s faultless command of metal work.
Central to the design and the theme is the dancing figure of a Longhair kachina – the Rain-Bringer. He dances to express prayers for life-giving rain, so crucial in the high desert.
The glittering gold overlay design inside the shadowbox frame is depicted with dramatic clarity against the darkened and textured background. Rain clouds and lightning form the top edge; the dancer is shown in the center, with Pueblo houses on either side of him as if he were dancing in the plaza of the village.
Shown in mid-step, he is chiseled with some detail: hair and beard, evergreen sprig in one hand, rattle in the other; sash, moccasins, and fox pelt hanging at his back. The houses are also realistically depicted. Nevertheless, the artist has carefully kept the surface of the gold elements as unadorned as possible to emphasize the warmth and the gleaming finish of the metal against the background.
The overlaid silver border is equally distinctive. Waves of water curl over the bottom edge; a buffalo, a bear, and an elk march across the top, with an evergreen tree at each corner.
At the sides, two different rain symbols, Kokopelli – the sower of seeds – and a bear claw, symbol of protection and blessing, are arranged in symmetrical pairs.
Here too, the silver mostly retains flat surfaces to maximize the glistening contrast with the dark background.
The silver tips are compatible in length, but kept simple, so the spotlight remains on the superb bolo itself.
Flawlessly executed elements are composed to form a dynamic harmony of theme and forms in this exceptional bolo.
Glittering with luxurious gold and silver, this magnificent piece is graphic and beautifully designed – like a painting in metals. It will surely be a treasured heirloom.