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Kenneth Aguilar and Angie Crespin
KEWA (Santo Domingo Pueblo)

Kenneth Aguilar and Angie Crespin live in Santo Domingo Pueblo. Also known as Kewa, it is more commonly called The Village, an endearment but also a fair description of the significance of one of the largest pueblos. Santo Domingo lies along the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and holds a central place in the history and culture and customs of all the pueblos. While known for holding the customs and culture close, Santo Domingo is also known for its history of trading with communities as far flung as the tip of South America to Baja California. They also have an ancient history with turquoise and shell, regarded as the original jewelry makers and those entrusted by Turquoise Woman to work the ancient Cerillos mine. At the heart of The Village are the guardians of traditions and the creators of beauty. And no one embodies this legacy better than Kenneth and Angie.

Kenneth and Angie are well known for their heishi (HeeShee), creating some of the very finest handmade beads from the Village. The best necklaces are made with the best beads. Kenneth learned from his dad, watching him clip each stone and shell, then polish on a rock grinder by hand, with vulnerable fingers working the strand of beads. Says Kenneth, “From the time I was a child, we made the beads this way. Santo Domingo, that's where the heishi comes from. There was no time to complain if the grinder caught your finger. You put on a bandaid and kept working. And you learn.”

The clipping and grinding and polishing take time and skill. And the necklaces they make are silky smoothe. But what also sets the work of Kenneth and Angie apart is how the beads are strung. They have also handground and polished baby olive shell that they then choose with tweezers and string as “spacers” between the heishi beads. And this creates the beautiful drape of their necklaces that Kenneth and Angie are known for. You also get to see the undersides and tops of each of the necklace beads, whether coral or turquoise or spiny oyster. When asked what she's most proud of, Angie says “You start with stone, rough looking, dullness, and then you have the finished product bright and colorful and smoothe. It's a good feeling when you make it and when someone likes it.”

Along with the hard work of creating the jewelry, there is also time and sometimes great effort necessary to sell the pieces. Kenneth watched his father travel far and wide to sell his jewelry. And he also remembers his father saying, “Don't feel bad if you don't sell on the first day or the second day. It was not your money that day. Next day maybe.” They pray for guidance and strength. And when they receive a check or cash, they breathe over it first as a silent prayer.

Kenneth received additional training at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe from 1967 to 1971. Both he and Angie have been making jewelry for over forty years. And now their pieces are in the Smithsonian and the Heard. They use the best stones, a variety of shells and semi-precious stones, and their necklaces are instantly recognizable for their vibrancy, perfection and elegance.

There are few artists from Santo Domingo who are in the same league as Kenneth and Angie for the skill and beauty and uniqueness of their necklaces. Their meticulous work and method also mean fewer pieces available from them. And then there is the Guardian of the Village part of their legacy that takes time. This is true for all able residents of the Village. In addition, Kenneth accepted the position of Lt. Governor for 2015 and 2016, an honor that pays little but demands a lot of time.

Kenneth and Angie are worthy guardians of all the legacies of Santo Domingo Pueblo, The Village.