Calvin and Pilar Lovato

Santo Domingo

I have been looking for some new SD jewelers who are skilled in making beaded necklaces. I was lucky to meet Calvin and Pilar Lovato. Pilar is related to our friends the Calabazas, so it was terrific meeting up with them. Calvin and Pilar are from Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa) in New Mexico. They create traditional and contemporary heishi jewelry using natural stones and seashells. Finding their inspiration throughout nature, Calvin and Pilar carry on an ancient lapidary tradition to create their distinctive design. Included on each necklace is a registered trademark of a square melon shell and on earrings is a gold seed bead.

Calvin and Pilar have been creating handmade jewelry together since they first got married in their early 20’s. Both Lovatos come from multi-generational families of Heishi makers and remain deeply aware of the tradition of their craft. Together the couple has received numerous SWAIA awards for their traditional Heishi bracelets and necklaces. Keeping the long tradition of Heishi in mind, Calvin says “Our people, from Santo Domingo, used to go down to the Gulf of Mexico and trade for seashells. [The shells] were personal adornment for our traditional dancing. We had turquoise near here, and when you mix that with seashells you get the two natural elements of sea and land. That’s how shells got into this region and into our artwork.” Their Heishi artistry is a slow process, which involves 9-10 steps. Beginning with slicing raw materials, into strips, the pieces are then drilled out individually. Following this the design stringing begins by putting each piece on wire so that grinding, sanding, and polishing can begin. When it’s all polished then the whole piece is transferred onto 3-ply nylon string, or sometimes onto Beadalon wire, and the work is finished off with Sterling Silver findings.

Calvin and Pilar Lovato

Santo Domingo

I have been looking for some new SD jewelers who are skilled in making beaded necklaces. I was lucky to meet Calvin and Pilar Lovato. Pilar is related to our friends the Calabazas, so it was terrific meeting up with them. Calvin and Pilar are from Santo Domingo Pueblo (Kewa) in New Mexico. They create traditional and contemporary heishi jewelry using natural stones and seashells. Finding their inspiration throughout nature, Calvin and Pilar carry on an ancient lapidary tradition to create their distinctive design. Included on each necklace is a registered trademark of a square melon shell and on earrings is a gold seed bead.

Calvin and Pilar have been creating handmade jewelry together since they first got married in their early 20’s. Both Lovatos come from multi-generational families of Heishi makers and remain deeply aware of the tradition of their craft. Together the couple has received numerous SWAIA awards for their traditional Heishi bracelets and necklaces. Keeping the long tradition of Heishi in mind, Calvin says “Our people, from Santo Domingo, used to go down to the Gulf of Mexico and trade for seashells. [The shells] were personal adornment for our traditional dancing. We had turquoise near here, and when you mix that with seashells you get the two natural elements of sea and land. That’s how shells got into this region and into our artwork.” Their Heishi artistry is a slow process, which involves 9-10 steps. Beginning with slicing raw materials, into strips, the pieces are then drilled out individually. Following this the design stringing begins by putting each piece on wire so that grinding, sanding, and polishing can begin. When it’s all polished then the whole piece is transferred onto 3-ply nylon string, or sometimes onto Beadalon wire, and the work is finished off with Sterling Silver findings.