Tufa Cast Portrait Pendant

Robert Whitehair Begay



Robert Whitehair Begay, son of Rebecca and Darryl Dean, was the recipient of the 2020-2021 Goodman Aspiring Artist Fellowship.

Previously, in August 2019, he received the Best of Classification and the Best of Youth Award at the 98th annual Santa Fe Indian Market for a bolo tie inspired by his great-grandfather.

He has continued to work in his parents’ style, incorporating their techniques with his vision. He has come into his own as a respected artist, even as a teenager, and he recently won a Second Place ribbon, competing as an adult, at the 2022 Heard Market for his concho belt “The People’s (Diné) Pandemic”.

This pendant shows Robert’s expertise with tufa casting, 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 – 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.

An award winner since the age of six, be sure to keep your eye on Robert Whitehair Begay!


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