Just a few miles west of Gallup, NM., nestled amongst the canyons & hills of the small town of Lupton, AZ., lies the unassuming workshop of the Navajo artists Bryon and Alvin Yellowhorse.
Alvin learned the silversmithing trade at an early age from his father, Frank Yellowhorse. He later mastered the techniques of cutting the small turquoise & other colorful stones into precise little pieces, which he assembles into intricate designs inspired by his Anasazi ancestors. This technique is called “Channel Inlay”. This is a style of inlay where all the stones are cut & assembled together then ground flush before being highly polished. Alvin is credited for originating another style of inlay called “Corn Row Wave Inlay” in which the stones are individually cut & rounded over before setting them into a silver or gold bracelet, pendant, ring, or link bracelet. Corn Row Wave Inlay is much more time consuming since he has to completely finish each stone one at a time before placing them into the gold or silver setting. Alvin creates each piece one at a time.
There are no mass production techniques or assembly lines. His designs, although very contemporary, are enriched by Zuni, Hopi, & Anasazi influences, along with his own Navajo heritage. Alvin also receives inspiration from the ancient petroglyphs found along the canyon walls near his workshop. Alvin is forever amazing jewelry & art galleries with his new designs & techniques. Aside from being featured in several high-end galleries, Alvin was recognized by the Smithsonian Magazine in an article called “Tantalizing Turquoise” in their August 1999 issue, along with Art Book Arizona Magazine doing a profile on his life. Each year Alvin enters his jewelry into the Santa Fe Indian Market competition & has won several Blue Ribbons. His work can also be found at the annual Heard Museum competition in Phoenix, AZ.
Born in 1972, Bryon is the younger brother of Alvin. Very tiny hand-cut stones are the hallmark of a Bryon Yellowhorse piece. He is known to compose his pieces in seemingly random color patterns – but to the discriminating eye, each color is chosen with much thought in mind. A Navajo Eye Dazzler rug has been used as his inspiration for some of his pieces. He adds excitement to the piece by adding the occasional raised stone.
Bryon had much the same beginnings in the jewelry world as brother, Alvin. Selling to tourists at the side of the road proved to be a valuable learning ground for the Yellowhorses. And through much hard work and determination, as well as a love of his work, Bryon has excelled in his craft.
Being recognized by countless awards for their work, Bryon and Alvin were both featured in the August 1999 edition of “Smithsonian Magazine.” The article highlighted the use of turquoise in contemporary Native American jewelry, and anyone with the pleasure of seeing some of Bryon’s work up close, can see why the Smithsonian would be happy to feature his work.