Nick Rosetta and his wife, Me-Wee, live in Kewa Pueblo (pronounced "Kee Wah") --formerly known as Santo Domingo Pueblo-- in northern New Mexico, half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Using all natural materials and handmade processes, they collaborate to make gorgeous heishi necklaces. Nick learned the art from his parents, Ray and Mary Rosetta. Me-Wee learned from her grandfather Tomasito Tenorio.
The heishi art form reaches back to prehistoric times, long before the arrival of the Spanish in the Southwest, when Kewa stone and shell jewelry --believed by many archeologists to be the oldest form of jewelry in the southwest-- was highly prized and widely traded. The art was taught within the pueblo, but like any vital art form, it evolved over time. The Spanish, for example, introduced silver to the southwest, and, of course, most southwest Indian jewelry makers have added that material to their traditional prehistoric materials of stone and shell. Nick's parents pioneered the art of "liquid silver."
Though they use modern tools, the Rosettas continue to make by laborious hand processes all of their beads --stone, shell, and silver. Thus the tiny silver beads that make up their "liquid silver" necklaces are "hand drawn." That is, they are made by a process in which narrow, flat silver strips are pulled by hand through progressively smaller holes in a draw plate until the edges curl around and come together, leaving a tiny hole in the center. Such hand made silver beads have a thin line --nearly impossible to see with the naked eye-- where the two edges have come together. Stone and shell beads are ground from rough materials on a grinding wheel. During this latter process, Nick sometimes closes his eyes and relies on the "feel" of the beads in his hand to get the desired size and consistency. Turquoise can be especially difficult to work. Normally, sixty to eighty percent of a natural turquoise stone is lost in the grinding process, and many varieties of shell and stone beads crack and fly off when the grinder catches a burr. After they are finally completed, the beads are strung on a fine wire into a necklace --sometimes of one kind of material, sometimes of many kinds of materials and colors.
Nick does most of the lapidary work --cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing. Me-Wee does ninety-five percent of the stringing, often with stunningly imaginative effects. Nick also makes earrings and pendants using a variety of other jewelry techniques.
As in prehistoric times, when pueblo peoples obtained their materials by means of a vast trade network, the Rosettas, too, obtain their materials from many different places --turquoise from Nevada and Arizona, serpentine from South Dakota, pipestone from Minnesota, as well as stones from Canada, Peru and Australia.
Nick and Me-Wee Rosetta have won several awards at the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts and Crafts Show, the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Autry Show in Los Angeles.