is only a part of my life," says Nelson, "along with my faith, family
and friendships. My gauge of success as a jeweler is if I can say
I still enjoy making it. I advise young jewelers to enjoy what they're
doing, not to do it to get rich. One can be too successful with
one style and not evolve."
Though Navajo, Nelson's work speaks little of the traditional. One
of his popular earrings is based on a computer chip design, and
a recent space series has evolved into a galaxy series. Most work
is multi-purpose; necklace design elements can be removed and worn
as pins. "My pieces are controlled, exact and balanced. I concentrate
on details," he asserts. "I see lacking today an eye for design.
Many young people are good at metalwork, but innovative design is
Nelson's educational background is evident in his hand-fabricated
jewelry designs of silver, gold (a choice merely for color) and
stones. His studies at the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute
and the University of New Mexico included art history, engineering,
geology, drafting, mechanical drawing and architecture. "Being self
taught allows me not to have obligations or boundaries in designing
my work. It permits me to evolve," Nelson says.
Contrary to many jewelers' work, Nelson meticulously sketches and
plans out each piece of jewelry on paper before fabrication. The
scale and intricacy of his designs dictate careful preparation because
they allow for few mistakes. Beyond details in the design, Nelson
engineers pieces so dangling parts maintain equal spacing or remain
untangled while being worn.
"In a world --Native jewelry-- where bigger seems to be better,
Nelson's work tends toward the small, intricate and complex. Because
his work is so complicated, few attempt to imitate," says dealer
Even if his work exemplifies the modern computer or space age, closer
examination reveals echoes of clouds, shields, rain and even tablitas,
though such imagery may remain unconscious to Nelson.