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L. Eugene Nelson
Jewelry

 

Metal & Stone
by Michael Hice

"Jewelry 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 missing."
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 Wayne Bobrick.
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.

 
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