"When we create art, we share a piece of ourselves with the world," say Steve Wikviya LaRance of the jewelry he makes, along with his wife, Marian Denipah. Their distinctive, tufa-cast jewelry uses traditional Native symbols, like petroglyphs, dragonflies, kachina figures and water signs, in creative contemporary ways. His designs are inspired by historical cast jewelry and other old techniques. Recent inspirations include Aztec, Inca, and Egyptian gold and silver jewelry - even traditional Hawaiian motifs. Lately, he likes to work in high-karat gold, sometimes embellished with precious stones
Steve was raised in the Hopi village of Moencopi. His grandfather, a religious leader from Hotevilla, was a major influence on his life. At Hopi he learned all the traditional arts, and those ceremonial designs are still a part of his work. There, he learned the traditional arts of carving kachina dolls, making bows and arrows and working with silver. After high school, Steve moved to Flagstaff to study business, but left school to work full time as an artist and eventually attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
After becoming a painter, then a sculptor, he now does jewelry that is beautifully designed and impeccably executed. He gathers the semi-hard volcanic tufa from the Hopi Reservation. "I was able to find the site where Charles Loloma used to get his tufa," he says, happily. It is finer-grained than that found elsewhere.
Their beautifully executed tufa cast jewelry has won numerous awards and can be found in collections worldwide. In the traditional Hopi tufa casting method, the design for the piece is carved in reverse into tufa, a soft volcanic stone, using precision tools. The two-part mold is assembled, then molten sterling silver or gold is poured in. The cooled casting is removed from the mold, bent into shape, finished and polished. The cast is typically broken in the process of removing the casting, so all pieces are one of a kind. LaRance then finishes his pieces with the finest quality stones.
In 2004, LaRance received a Smithsonian Artist Fellowship Award and his work is shown at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.