Profile: Ervin Tsosie

he approaches each piece as a painter would a blank canvas

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

Ervin-Tsoie[Gallup, New Mexico. 2009]A quiet, introspective man, Tsosie is a self-taught artist. He has been making jewelry since he was 17, and much of his work is based on ceremonial and mythical figures and spiritual beings representing Navajo culture. His ideas come from meditation, ceremonials and prayer. “For some of my work,” he explains, “the figures were inspired by my grandma who used to dance the Yei bi cheí ceremony.”

tsoie-jewelrySet in silver and gold, his work is intricately inlaid with hand-cut, semi-precious stones such as sugilite, coral, lapis, malachite, turquoise, jet and mother of pearl. His attention to detail is meticulous, and his pieces so finely crafted it boggles the imagination. The oval belt buckle pictured here, for example, has more than 1,000 tiny pieces, each hand-cut from semi-precious stones, and took months to complete.

Tsosie approaches each piece as  a painter would a blank canvas, often “letting it sit, until the piece speaks to me, then I build on that.” Everything is freehand; he draws his designs before beginning work on them. Sometimes he likes to have fun with the piece. Others are more serious and reflective of a highly spiritual theme.

He creates necklaces, earrings, bolos, bracelets, pins, pendants, medallions and ranger sets (three-piece belt buckles). Although Tsosie prefers working in silver, he occasionally uses gold as well.

In his “spare time,” the artist enjoys painting and sculpture. One of his favorite sculptures is a Kokopeli with an inlaid bustle and flute of silver.

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

Ervin Tsoie. Image ©Kathryn R. Burke
Jewelry. Image ©Kathryn R. Burke

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

Tsosie’s work has appeared in various shows including the Santa Fe Indian Market and Intertribal Ceremonial, Gallup and can also be seen at Tanner Trading, Gallup NM,  and various galleries throughout the Southwest.