Eclectic wearable metals artist Keri Ataumbi (Kiowa/Italian) came to Santa Fe Indian Market 2014 partnered with another think-outside-the-box fashion artist, Jamie Okuma (Luiseno/Shoshone-Bannock/Okinawan) with what Ataumbi calls “a three piece collaboration that references Pocahontas.”
“She changed history, a single individual acting as a bridge and Jamie and I are bridge people too, moving between two worlds, esthetics, and perspectives.”
“I use traditional Kiowa imagery and materials in a contemporary form,” she says as a short-version explanation of a fertile mind that explores the relationship between jewelry and the human body. According to Southwest Art magazine, “Ataumbi defines herself not as a native artist, but as a player in the international contemporary art arena.”
When the ribbons were handed out, the Ataumbi-Okuma collaboration took a First Place prize and the Special Award sponsored by Blue Rain Gallery. "Our criteria: innovative and refined art—something that really struck us as being beautiful, progressive, and technically masterful," says the Blue Rain Facebook page. "This year, we found all of these qualities and MORE in this collaborative jewelry set."
Prior to Indian Market, Ataumbi spoke with ICTMN about her general artistic philosophies, and her journey.
Your website is broken down into collections that include "Ocean," "Pollenators," and "Animals"—Is nature your inspiration?
I live in the country with an orchard and a vegetable garden, animals, and honeybees, so nature inspires me to blend these organic undertones with geometric modern design. The Pollenator set of pieces took me about five years and I made so many insects over that time, I decided I was done with the birds and the bees and the Ocean concept called out saying, "choose me." Then came categories like Geometric, Mythic, and Visual Arts.
What are you trying to accomplish?
I’m not into standard mass-produced pieces, trendy baubles, or ethnic jewelry for tourists, my goal is to create work that strives to embrace contemporary jewelry-making strategies through artistic methodologies different from the traditional design process…different in that the dynamic comes from content rather than tried-and-true designs in traditional forms.
Where are you, artistically?
I vacillate between a couple of things in my work. I dearly love figurative, but at the same time I also love abstract design, so in my studio at any given time, you’ll find those two different lines simultaneously moving forward. I can’t help myself… that’s the way my Creator made me.
What's next for you?
I don’t think of myself as being an expert yet on anything in particular. I’m in my mid-40s now, anticipating another 50 years of creativity, but I’m not quite sure what’s next. However, I am a maker of things, so when I’m not in my studio, I still need to occupy my hands and my mind and have taken up both cooking and sewing. I’m still wrestling with the concept, but I am contemplating making wearable objects, accessories like hats and purses. That may or may not happen however because there are only 24 hours in a day and I do have a viable business to maintain—and making jewelry takes a lot of hours.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring Native artists?
Think for yourself and research everything you’re interested in. Being an artist isn’t just about talent, it’s a skill to be learned. Making a piece—painting, sculpture, or jewelry—shouldn’t be confined to your time at the bench or easel. Some of that time should be spent in understanding the basics of the craft and expanding your horizons.