Charles Loloma –From Pottery to Jewelry Designing

Posted: Tue, Sep 22nd 2015, 00:20 | Updated: Wed, Jul 26th 2017, 05:42

Charles Loloma was an accomplished jewelry maker, painter, potter and sculptor. He was one of the few early Native American artists who made a distinctive mark in mainstream industry. Loloma was considered one of the leading artists from the Hopi tribe who took traditional art forms to the world at large.

Early Life – Initiation Into The Arts

Charles Loloma

Charles Loloma was born on January 7, 1921 near Hotevilla-Bacavi, Arizona. His father was a Hopi Indian and the Rex of the Sand and Tobacco Clan while his mother belonged to the Badger Clan. Charles Loloma’s parents were accomplished artists intheir own right, though their talent was restricted within their traditional Hopi village. His father was a master weaver and moccasin maker while his mother made excellent baskets. From early childhood, Lolomo’s inclination towards the arts was recognized as he possessed a good sense of design. Since being artistic was considered to be the Hopi way, it was only thought to be natural and nothing different.

His early schooling began at the Hotevilla Day School, after which he stayed with his aunt to complete high school in Oraibi. He finally graduated from the Phoenix Indian School in 1940. From his school days, his artistic talents were recognized and encouraged by his teachers as well. When still a student, he was selected by Fred Kabotie to assist him in reproducing Awatovi murals for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At about the same time, he also began assisting Renen d´Harnoncourt in executing murals for the Federal Building in the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco.

 

Early Career, Marriage and Formal Education

charle loloma jewelry

Charles Loloma was drafted into the army in 1941, where he served till 1945. He spent three years in the Aleutian Islands and became a camouflage expert. He married Otellie Pasiyava in 1942, a Hopi potter from Second Mesa, Arizona and settled in Shipaulovi after completing his army commission. He started his career making illustrations and murals for the Verde Valley School. Thanks to GI Bill, in late 1945, he resumed his studies at the School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University and took up ceramics, mechanical drawing, design and marketing as subjects.

charles loloma jewelry

Soon he received a fellowship from the Whitney Foundation for undertaking a research on clay usage and ceramics among the Hopis. By this time, Loloma became sure he wanted to pursue a career as an artist. He, along with his wife, graduated from Alfred University in 1949. By 1954, the couple opened a pottery shop in Scottsdale, Arizona and called the collection Lolomaware. They were the first tenants at the Kiva Craft Center which was founded by Lloyd Kiva New.  

 

Tryst with Jewelry Making

Though Loloma gained considerable success as a potter, he found his true calling as a jewelry designer. A self-taught silversmith, his designs had a mix of Indian and outside influences. Apart from using precious and semi-precious stones in his jewelry items, Loloma regularly used random stones, which became quite popular. In the initial years, he sold his jewelry in his shop.

While his jewelry career had humble beginning where he primarily relied on tufa casting of silver, he later began to use gold as a medium. By 1960s, he used a wide variety of stones in different colors. One of his most famous techniques was inlaying jewelry pieces with stones on the inside (which couldn’t be seen), which according to him reflected the inner beauty of the wearer.

charles loloma chain and pendant

 

charles loloma ring

 

charles loloma-hand cuff

While running the shop, he also started teaching at the University of Arizona, Tucson and at the Arizona State University at Tempe. He also taught during the summer extension courses in Sedona.

In 1962, the Institute of American Indian Arts was founded and Loloma was appointed as the head of the plastic arts and sales departments. The next year, he traveled to Paris to showcase his jewelry work, both in fashion shows and private exhibitions.

charles loloma hand cuff

 

charles loloma hand cuff

 

charles loloma ring

After a few years, he returned to Hotevilla to set up his own studio. At the same time he continued to sell his jewelry pieces at the Heard Museum Shop and several similar galleries. His jewelry work gained considerable popularity and were regularly worn by distinguished persons. Some of them included Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright. His jewelry items were also presented to the Queen of Denmark and the wife of the Philippine president.

charles loloma hand cuff

 

charles loloma ring

Loloma featured in the 1972 NEW film “Three Indians”. A television film “Loloma” was also produced on him.

He breathe his last in 1991 at the age of 70. He left behind a legacy and was an inspiration to thousands of native artists.

 

Awards and Recognition for Charles Loloma

charles loloma awards

REFERENCES

http://www.americanmastersofstone.com/Biographies/Charles%20Loloma.htm

http://www.temple.edu/crafts/metalsdirectorypage/biographies/b105.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Loloma

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jewelry designerJewelry DesigningCharles Loloma

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