Santo Domingo and Acoma Pueblo
Althea Cajero is from the Pueblos of Santo Domingo and Acoma, in New Mexico. Her mother, Dorothy Tortalita, was a full-time silversmith, and her father, Tony Tortalita, was a lapidary jeweler and is now a tribal leader of Santo Domingo Pueblo. Her parents made their living creating art and selling their work under the Governor's Palace in Santa Fe and at art shows. Her appreciation for art came from growing up and being around it. She knew that one day art would be a part of her life, not really knowing whether it would be through collecting, selling, or creating it.
Althea grew up in Santo Domingo Pueblo and attended high school in Santa Fe, NM. After graduating from St. Catherine's High School she attended the University of New Mexico and was hired by the Indian Health Service and worked for them for almost 20 years.
In 2005, Althea and Joe Cajero, Jr., bronze and clay sculptor from Jemez Pueblo, were married. It was in being in his creative space that inspired her to think about her own creative capabilities.
From the Fall of 2004 to the Spring of 2006, she attended a jewelry class at the Poeh Arts Cultural Center in Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico. Fritz Casuse, her instructor and prominent Navajo jeweler, taught her to hand-fabricate and cast using silver and gold.
With the support of her husband, she resigned from the Indian Health Service and became a full-time artist. Fascinated by the beautiful texture of cuttlefish bone castings, she now creates a majority of her jewelry designs integrating the cuttlefish bone castings with hand fabrication. She works primarily in silver and gold, and integrates unique natural stones such as turquoise, jaspers, and agates as well as coral, natural shells and pearls. She continues to refine her skills by attending continued education courses and workshops, working with mentors, experimenting and following her intuition. She expresses her gratitude everyday for an incredibly blessed life.
"My understanding of my creativity is that it can be a deeper expression from my soul. My experience in creating jewelry is that I am continually learning who I am and what I can do. When I visualize a piece, I am inspired to create it. From creating it, I learn patience and acceptance; the patience to allow each process to take the necessary time, and the acceptance that it may not become exactly as I visualize. In this process, however, lies the potential of it becoming something even more beautiful than I imagined."