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Tommy Jackson
NAVAJO SILVERSMITH

TOMMY JACKSON grew up in the heart of Navajoland. Born in 1958, he went to high school in Chinle, the town at the mouth of the legendary Canyon de Chelly—a stronghold for 19th century Navajo, known then as the Lords of the Land. Steeped in mythology, this landscape echoes the strength and beauty in the Navajo bedrock of beliefs—foremost of those is responsibility to family and clan. A husband, father, and grandfather, Tommy is also a world-renowned gold and silversmith, his award-winning pieces on exhibit in museums and treasured in collections around the world.

A striking example of Tommy’s pieces is the motif of Navajo rug designs. He sometimes works these patterns directly into the gold or silver; or he inlays stones in visually stunning creations that reflect the complexity of Navajo tapestries. Other pieces are a declaration of his passion for high-grade American turquoise. These pieces are all about the great stone. He will use heavy-gauge silver, and in keeping with the old style tradition then chisel or hand-stamp, all with an eye of showcasing a great old American turquoise stone such as Bisbee, Morenci, Lander Blue or Candelaria.

Jackson started in 1973, learning at the bench of his parents, renowned silversmiths Gene and Martha Jackson. However, it was his mother who urged him to pursue a degree, and he followed her footsteps into education, eventually teaching elementary school at Wide Ruins on the Reservation. But jewelry-making called to him in his spare time, in the after-hours, in the late night, and by 1988 he was winning prestigious awards, and has continued winning nearly every year since at the big shows, including Indian Market and the Heard. He was also chosen as Navajo Tribal representative for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

His pieces have won numerous awards, including First at Indian Market, as recently as 2014. He and his wife, Marita, who does much of the stone-cutting for his pieces, have pieces featured in national publications.