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Kachinas by Americana artists

Native American Artists: Jewelers « back to artist list

Alvin and Lula Begay, Navajo Silversmiths

Alvin and Lula Begay were both born in Winslow, Arizona, in 1956. They both attended the Dilkon Boarding School and later the Winslow High School. While at Dilkon, Alvin met Tommie Singer, the well known Navajo silversmith, whose shop was in Dilkon. In 1973, Alvin began his training in the skills of silversmithing. Eventually he was to join Tommie and work in his shop for 12 years.

Both Alvin and Lula came from families of artistic background. Alvin's mother, Ada Kai Begay, was a noted Navajo rug weaver. Lula's parents, Tommie and Ovida Lewis, were silversmiths specializing in needlepoint turquoise jewelry. When Alvin joined Tommie Singer's shop, Lula began a career as a clerk and secretary for the Navajo Tribal Government.

After Alvin left Tommie Singer, he joined with the noted Navajo award-winning silversmith, Abraham Begay, whose shop was in Flagstaff. Alvin worked with Abraham for 2 years helping in the design and construction of jewelry that eventually became award winners. Alvin and Lula have become a fine, mutually supportive silver-working team. Lula left the tribal government in 1991. With Alvin as a teacher, she soon started cutting and setting stones, doing the final polish and finishing work, as well as braiding the leather used for their bolos. Alvin does the overall design and construction of the piece. They do not use any pre-made findings except earring posts. They make their own hooks and eyes, their own hand hammered beads, and their own bezels. Alvin incorporates double and triple overlay (a rare and extremely difficult skill), shadow box, engraving, and reticulation techniques, often all on one major piece. He is well known for his reversible necklaces, often permitting several "looks" on a single piece.

He won a first award with a necklace at a Dallas, Texas, competition, a second award for an inlay concho belt at the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial, and a third prize at Arizona's O'Odham Tash.

Alvin's first love is bareback riding in rodeos. He has competed for 19 years, winning championships in 1987 and 1989. He qualified for the Indian National Finals in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990. He won top honors at the Belen New Mexico Baca Rodeo Series, which included rodeo cowboys from all nationalities. Alvin has competed in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Montana. He is one of the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association's top award winners, with four championship saddles, over 50 silver and gold engraved championship buckles, as well as significant cash awards.

Alvin and Lula's work reflects a strong discipline and great attention to detail. Their recreational activities in the field of rodeo are wide open, free, and uninhibited. Both, however, are demanding and require the utmost skill. Their jewelry is a reflection of their discipline and their freedom.