Norbert Peshlakai has an exceptional talent for transposing everyday images into imaginary scenes. He does this on small silver “canvases” that are the pots, pins, and other jewelry for which he has become so widely known over the past thirty years.

Born in 1953 in Fort Defiance, Arizona, Peshlakai is a fourth-generation silversmith whose ancestors include Slender Maker of Silver, one of the earliest noted Navajo silversmiths. Despite this legacy, it was by accident that Norbert discovered he loved working with silver, after a painting course he enrolled in at Haskell Junior College turned out to be house painting instead of fine art. Jewelry was the only other art course available, so he signed up and discovered his natural talent for working with metal.

He constructs his signature miniature stamps and dies from concrete masonry nails. He might employ six or seven stamps to form a single motif. His Mimbres rabbit design takes as many as 10 stamps to form the whiskers, eyes, legs and other parts.

Throughout his artistic career, Peshlakai has been a wellspring of ingenuity. “I like experimenting with metal,” Peshlakai says. “A lot of things I learn by mistake.” He was one of the first artists to make small silver seed pots, beginning in 1976, and he has continued to develop the art form, becoming the most prolific and diverse artist working in the medium. Over the years he was won numerous awards, and his work is on display at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.


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