Monty Claw is a much-awarded artist in fine beadwork, painting, and jewelry, as well. And, he is largely self-taught!
He has beadwork in nine different museum collections, and was featured in Native Peoples, the official magazine for the 2019 Santa Fe Indian Market, with his jewelry.
This impressive bracelet is true tufa-cast silver, with a wonderful – and unusual – variety of texture.
When silver has been cast from tufa, a naturally occurring, compressed sand of volcanic origin, it is very difficult to create delicate designs, since the material is so crumbly.
The design is carved into a slab of tufa that has been sawn into two horizontal layers – like a cake. Molten silver is then poured into the design, and covered with the top half of the slab, with the excess poured out, through a small carved spout.
When cool, the rough silver design is pried out, leaving the friable tufa material only good for possibly one further casting. More often; not.
Then the artist must refine, shape, and finish the piece, adding stones, if that is part of the design, and polishing away as much of the grainy tufa texture as the artist’s vision dictates.
So, this bracelet, with its cut-out areas, and incredibly dainty patterns on the wings, is amazing in its virtuosity.
The stones are exceptional, as well: natural blood-red coral, and brilliant blue, natural spiderweb Kingman turquoise.
The featured design is a dragonfly, a sign of good luck, since it lives in and above water (scarce and precious, in the high desert).
Also, dragonflies are very beautiful in shape, which incites artistic imagination.
In the Navajo way, nature in balance is the highest ideal, so the red coral represents the land, and the sun, while the turquoise symbolizes the sky, and water.
Only two of the dragonfly’s wings are connected to the edge of the cuff; the other two are totally free, reinforcing the illusion of floating over a stream.
Incredibly regular, precise, and delicate lines form a handsome pattern on the wings.
This is an example of outstanding expertise in casting tufa, and recalls the delicacy of a real dragonfly.
The textured wings were somewhat darkened, so the raised lines stand out, in contrast.
Antennae, body and wings all suggest the glistening surface of water, as do the canted, and polished edges of the cuff. Inside, the grainy texture of the tufa is obvious, and the silver is darkened, like the wings.
There is a tremendous sense of delicacy and strength, both, in this stunning bracelet, as well as admirable creativity, and remarkable skill.
A definite conversation piece, and a handsome metaphor for good luck, for whomever wears this exceptional bracelet.