Profile: Tommy Jackson

his work is like he is: big and bold and full of joy!

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

Tommy-Jackson[Gallup, New Mexico. 2009] Tommy’s work is like the man himself, big and bold. He arrived for his interview on a Harley Davidson, accessorizing his leathers with a massive bolo of silver and turquoise that suited him perfectly. He is affable and outgoing, with an infectious love for the jewelry he makes and his joy in making it.

Tommy Jackson braceletsJackson works in heavy gauge silver and gold set with large, natural stones of top-notch quality, all of them from American mines such as Bisbee, Morenci, Landers and Circo Lake. Between shows, he keeps much of his work in the pawn vaults at Ellis Tanner Trading in Gallup. When he brought some of it out to be photographed for this story, you could feel some serious coveting in the blood and heart of every man and woman in the building.

Tommy Jackson squashJackson’s designs are both contemporary and uniquely cultural, such as the “squash” necklace shown here. He   combines big chunks of coral or outstanding pieces of turquoise with both gold or silver. “Turquoise is so hot!” he exclaims, citing its popularity at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where his work was shown and sold.    “I was fortunate enough to be asked to demonstrate there,” he says. “Now, I have pieces all over the world.”

Jackson developed his craft gradually, starting 20 years ago with his parents, silversmiths Gene and Martha Jackson. “I took some silversmithing classes in high school,” he explains, “and had an opportunity to demo at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. I made $1500 that weekend, and decided I wanted to get into this business!”

Meanwhile, at the urging of his mother, who has a PhD and teaches linguistics at the Diné College in Tsalie, Ariz, Jackson went on to complete a Bachelor of Education from the University of Arizona. Orignally following in her footsteps  and teaching while  “doing jewelry on the side,” he now works full time as a jeweler and taches Navajo culture as a way of giving back to his community. Many of his students, including two interviewed here for the Silver Stage and who have gone on to personal success of thier own, Benson Manygoats and Ervin Tsoie, are former students.

An award-winning Navajo jeweler, Jackson was recognized at the World Fair, and has enjoyed success  and recognition at shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum. His work if found in fine galleries including Garlands of Sedona, AZ, Wrights Gallery, Silver Sun, Albuquerque, Ivory Trading, Ouray CO, and many more throughout the United States.

Tommy Jackson. Image ©Kathryn R. Burke
Jewelry. Images. All ©Kathryn R. Burke for Ivory Trading & Gallery.

Special thanks to Ellis Tanner who arranged and graciously provided his office for these interviews.
Related Story, Cowboys & Indians Magazine
More images. San Juan Publishing, Tommy Jackson portfolio.

Tommy Jackson designs, Ganado AZ, 928-555-3325