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Marian Denipah

With a father from the Navajo Nation and a mother from the San Juan Pueblo, Marian grew up sharing in both cultures. In high school, she pursued her first interest in art: painting portraits. At the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Marian studied painting, photography, modern dance and ballet. She received her degree in Fine Arts from Northern Arizona University.

Marian worked for many years with Navajo silversmith, Ric Charlie, one of the masters of tufa casting. She helped him with his painting, he helped her with her tufa casting techniques. Tufa casting is an old, very complicated process. Two tufa stones are rubbed together, flattening them until they are flush. The design is cut into the stone and the two are bound tightly together to form a mold. Melted silver or gold is poured inside and, when it is cooled, excess metal is cut and the casting filed and polished. The texture of the tufa stone becomes a part of the design.

“I think of the jewelry as little paintings in stone,” says Marian. “Although jewelry is more graphic—we can work with texture and design to bring more depth to a piece.”

Her distinctive jewelry uses traditional native designs, like petroglyphs, dragonflies, butterflies, hummingbirds and turtles. The designs are often set with precious and semi-precious stones. And many look like small sculptures, and Marian includes a surprise in many of her pieces: an etching of a hummingbird on the inside of the bracelet. Always wanting to experiment and try new techniques, Marian also works alongside her husband Steve Wikviya La Rance, of Hopi.

“When we create art, we share a piece of ourselves with the world,” says Steve. This husband and wife team are true artists, loving to create, innovate and experiment. Steve’s grandfather was a religious leader from Hotevilla, one of the most traditional Hopi villages, and Steve is also on the board of directors for SWAIA, the organization which sponsors the annual Indian Market in Santa Fe.