Micro inlay pendant by acclaimed Navajo artist Carl Clark. The 2” x ¾” micro mosaic pendant with a 3/8” bale has a Yei design. It is on 3 strands of 18” hand cut coral beads.
“We use good feelings and make jewelry traditionally with precision and care without rushing. Our jewelry takes much longer to make than common piece of jewelry.”
About the artist
Carl and Irene Clark
Carl and Irene Clark are well known for their extremely fine quality jewelry. Carl is the great innovator in inlay jewelry. “There was no teaching handed down to us. However, I do have a great-uncle Peshlakai Atsitty, whom was known as one of the first silversmiths, taught by a Mexican blacksmith. We have many cousins and nephews that are silversmiths and painters. I learned all my smithing and inlaying techniques by trial and error without a teacher or predecessor. Once I began to inlay, it took 2 years of progression to perfect my micro-fine inlaying techniques.”
Early on he was a kachina carver, however a summer job during his college years changed his craft and he started making jewelry. Conceiving a new style, Carl incorporated the styles of the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni into one. Carl is the founder of the “micro-fine intarsia” inlay technique reminiscent of the art deco school of the 1930s. The Clarks did not pattern themselves after any European or American jewelers even though they found out after 5 years of creating their jewelry that there were other micro-fine jewelry artists in the Art nouveau style and Art Deco Era.
Carl’s great innovation involves using micro-inlay to color blend a design into day and night depictions of monument valley, Navajo rugs or rainbow man Yeis. The Rainbow man Yei that is in their inlay, symbolizes “Jewelry of Protection”. “Artistically speaking, we use the inlay as a picture and the metal work as a picture frame.” The Clarks have developed the “Picture” of a micro-fine Rug Design and the Color Blend (from day to night) that creates an authentic technique that makes it hard for “copy cats” to duplicate. Since their jewelry takes much longer to make than a common piece of jewelry, the Clarks work together to create beautifully handcrafted jewelry with the utmost precision, care and quality.
Carl was self-taught in 1973 and then taught Irene in 1974. They then taught their son, Carl Jr., their art when he was in high school and also Irene’s brother Tom (Monk) Baldwin in 1974. A true team, Carl and Irene always work together, handcrafting each piece of beautiful jewelry. They both cut, assemble and inlay the stones and Irene hand fabricates the gold and silver. Irene does much of the design work and Carl does the tufa stone casting. They very often stamp the inside or the back of their jewelry and often incorporate traditional Navajo figures such as the Yei figure.
“I learned all my silver-smithing and inlaying techniques by trial and error without a teacher or predecessor. Since there was no category for my type of inlay back then, I then classified it as “micro-fine intarsia”. They create masterpieces in gold and silver, using turquoise, coral, sugilite, opal, shells, jet, and other gems and stones. “Micro-fine intarsia inlay” is a time consuming and rarely practiced technique in which fine strands of cut stone are laid in pattern and glued together then cut cross-wise in slabs. One bracelet often will require five to six thousand stones.
Carl and Irene take pride in their work and it shows in the detail. They feel that it reflects the Navajo tradition because “We use good feelings and make jewelry traditionally with precision and care without rushing. Our jewelry takes much longer to make than common piece of jewelry.”
Listed in every important reference book on Indian jewelry, the Clarks are accepted as unique masters of micro-mosaic inlay. Some even claim they are the greatest Indian jewelers of all. Each piece they make contains hundreds, if not several thousand, individual tiny pieces of various stones. The fame of their incredibly tiny mosaic inlay pieces is world-wide. They have been awarded practically every prize available for their astonishing jewelry, which adorn many collections and undoubtedly will be displayed in many museums.