Profile: Benson Manygoats

Grandpa had a lot of goats!

Story by Kathryn R. Burke
All content © San Juan Publishing Group, In. All rights reserved.

Benson-Manygoats[Gallup, New Mexico. 2009] The man has a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin when he explains his last name. “My grandpa had a lot of goats,” Benson Manygoats says.

The grin and the twinkle stay with him as he brings out his jewelry and lays it on Ellis Tanner’s desk. (We conducted this interview in Gallup at Ellis Tanner Trading. ) The jewelry Benson presents is very unusual, highly contemporary, very geometric. Yet it is based on traditional design. He works mainly in heavy-grade silver inlaid cut stones shaped in ovals, squares, diamonds and triangles.

manygoats-necklaceAll of his jewelry is hand-crafted, including the clasps, silver beads and inlaid geometric shapes. He uses a variety of color, and there is a nice, heavy feel to each piece. Especially popular are his “sliders,” tiny geometric shapes that slide onto a chain and can be worn in groups. Many of his necklaces are strands of half-inch round and tube beads interspersed with inlaid pieces and a central medallion following a single shape theme (like the one pictured here). His large squash is especially impressive, especially the one with an inlaid medallion in his feather design—a common motif to many of his pieces. “I drew it out on paper,” he says, “then started working on it, and said, ‘Wow! This is so sharp!’ I want to make a lot more pieces that people look at, and say, ‘Wow!’”

Manygoats started making jewelry right out of high school, where he learned silversmithing, and worked with renowned jeweler Ray Tracy for 15 years, crafting many of his high-end signature pieces.  He also studied with famed Navajo jeweler Tommy Jackson. Now, he’s on his own, creating his own designs. “I’ve got so many ideas!” he says. Like his new bolo with an inlaid flag in lapis, red jasper and mother of pearl with tiny silver stars. With each new idea and each new creation, Manygoats is definitely generating that Wow! reaction.

Manygoats plans to do a lot of shows this year, and his work can also be seen at Tanner Trading, Gallup NM.

Benson Manygoats. Image ©Kathryn R. Burke
Jewelry. Image ©Kathryn R. Burke

Special thanks to Ellis Tanner who arranged and graciously provided his office for these interviews.

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