Zuni Stone Bear Fetish

Jovanna Poblano


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A third-generation artist, Jovanna comes from a family of exceptional Zuni jewelers and carvers. Her grandfather was Leo Poblano, a ground-breaking jeweler and carver. Veronica Poblano, her mother, and her brother, Dylan Poblano, are both contemporary jewelry masters.

Jovanna is best known for her unique jewelry, featuring exquisite, exotic beadwork and stones, combined in gorgeous colors.

However, her family is descended directly from Teddy Weahkee, legendary fetish carver, and they all occasionally carve old-style fetishes.

Originally, fetishes were found, natural stones that seemed to resemble a particular animal that would convey its powers to the owner.

This fetching bear is an example of the old-style: recognizable, but abstract; lacking the realistic detail that some newer fetishes display.

It is carved from Zuni Nutria stone, found along the Nutria River on Zuni land.

The rounded forms and inlaid turquoise eyes, plus his etched smile, give this carved bear a charming, friendly demeanor.

The stone is burnished to an appealingly smooth finish. That, and its rounded forms, makes this bear feel delightful in the hand.

Bears are considered guardians and protectors, with healing properties, by the Zuni.

This winsome bear has a lovely, flat turquoise oval inlaid in its back.

That is the artist’s handsome and inventive version of the traditional medicine bundle, which was meant to direct the fetish animal’s power to the owner.

Notice that the bear’s head is turned slightly, adding another subtle curve to the carving, and emphasizing the sweet nature of this benevolent bear.

An expert, wonderfully engaging, curvaceous carving by a famous artist whose family is notable for innovating within the Zuni tradition.

A collector’s item, indeed.

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