He has won awards for painting and jewelry at Santa Fe Indian Market since he was six!
Doubtless, genes play a part in his talent; Mom and Dad are Rebecca and Darryl Dean Begay, perennial award-winners themselves, including Best in Show at Santa Fe.
Now a very young teenager, he follows his parents’ predilection for fine tufa-casting, using the extra-fine tufa that his father has discovered (and keeps secret!),
This pendant shows Robert’s expertise with the tricky medium, as well as his consistent theme of Navajo culture.
Tufa is a naturally hardened, volcanic sand-like substance, that is very friable.
To cast from tufa, you saw a chunk out of the ground, slice it in half like a layer cake, carve out the desired design – very carefully, since the material is so crumbly – then pour molten silver into the mold.
After it is cooled, you pry out the rough cast – again, very carefully, so there’s a hope to use the mold once more – and then finish off the silver to the end product.
This striking pendant displays the ultra-fine grain of the special tufa and the remarkable carving skill of the young jeweler.
The lines of the mountains are crisp, as is the full moon; every detail of the logs in the hogan, and its shape, door and chimney are clear and sharp.
Even the bail is tufa cast, so the whole piece is integrated.
Glistening, and in clear relief, this evocation of the traditional housing of the Navajo is handsome, expertly created, and sweetly nostalgic.
We look forward to seeing how this young super-star evolves, as he matures.