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I’ll be doing a trunk show at the Schack Art Center in Everett this Saturday August 18, 2012 from 10:00 am-7:00 pm. If you are in the area come by and check it out.
While I was at Renegade SF, I noticed an abundance in the trend of using Native American, and Navajo in particular, patterns. I’ve also noticed this trending big time on Etsy. Something that makers should be aware of is that recently Urban Outfitters was sued for using the word Navajo in connection to their designs, because they were in violation of trademarks (the Navajo Nation has 10) and the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, “which makes it illegal to sell arts or crafts in a way to falsely suggest they’re made by American Indians when they’re not.” (Huffington Post)
The issue that I’ve been having with this trend is that a lot of the people using these patterns in their crafts have no real ties to the cultures that they are appropriating from. There is a blog post on Native Appropriations about the many issues behind this, but the part that I want to express here is this idea of crafts being about an honesty in processes, and a connection with the makers. Just as folks in the handmade movement are pushing for people to buy local and handmade, I would like to push the idea that Adrienne puts forth in her blog – “If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native.”
As Adrienne goes on to say, “There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says “Indian made” or “Native made”. Talk to the artist. find out where they’re from. Be diligent. Don’t go out in a full “costume”. It’s ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don’t march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt.”
I’m not saying that anyone who isn’t Native should not wear or own anything with Native designs. What I am saying is that just like we talk about when we say “buy handmade” so that we can support the maker directly, when you buy Native, support a Native artisan directly.
Since this question comes up a lot, I thought I’d do a post on caring for silver jewelry.
If your jewelry is sterling silver with a satin finish and doesn’t have a patina (darkened), the best way to clean it, is to lightly scrub the surface with a Scotch-Brite pad or fine steel wool in a circular pattern.
If your jewelry is sterling silver with a shiny finish but has tarnished, rub it with a Sunshine cloth to remove the tarnish.
To help prevent your jewelry from becoming tarnished, you can store your jewelry in a zip-lock bag with anti-tarnish paper.
If it does have a patina, then a gentil liquid soap and water is best. If you need to get into crevices, a soft toothbrush will work, but be sure not to rub too hard or the patina will come off.
Also, it is normal for patinas to wear off of jewelry over time. This is especially true of rings and bracelets since they take so much abuse, but less so with earrings and necklaces. Jewelers usually use “liver of sulfur” or “silver black” to impart a patina on jewelry. These chemicals require proper handling and disposal, but one thing that most people have at home is bleach, which can also darken silver, but sometimes with unpredictable results, so use at your own risk.