Artist Bio: Ola & Tony Eriacho (Zuni Pueblo)

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Ola and Tony Eriacho - Zuni Pueblo

Zuni artists Tony and Ola Eriacho have been creating beautiful jewelry for over 35 years – first on their own as individual jewelers, and then together as a couple. "Our styles were very different. Over the years, they've blended together."

Tony specialized in silver and turquoise work. "I started with what some call Navajo-style work, making jewelry with large nuggets of turquoise and clusters of stones. I also made sandcast pieces and liked to use the shadowbox technique."

Ola has always specialized in working with stones, cutting and inlaying them in the classic Zuni styles. "I first learned about jewelry-making from my mother, who was known for her beautiful needlepoint [clusters of small, elongated, finely-cut stones]. Later, I learned how to inlay the stones on my own."

Ola and Tony EriachoIt's the precision inlay and dramatic designs that distinguishes Ola's work, who creates most of their jewelry today. "I mostly use the traditional materials that the Zuni are known for -- shell, turquoise, coral and jet," says Ola. "Occasionally, I'll try something in one of the more exotic stones, like lapis, sugelite, opal or gaspeite." The stones are inlaid in silver and gold, resulting in stunning necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pins. When creating new designs, Ola often makes a complete set with matching stones and designs.

The sunface and sunburst designs are two favorite motifs in the Eriacho jewelry. The sunface is the mask of the sun – a stylized face with geometric eyes and mouth. The sunburst has rays of silver or gold emanating from the face. Some of the faces are so small, jet dust is used to make the mouth.

Ola and Tony Eriacho"The sun is important to our People," says Ola. "And, even more to me because I am from the Sun Clan. We even use the sunface in our hallmark."

The Eriacho's live at the Zuni Pueblo, which borders western New Mexico. In addition to being fine jewelers, they are strong advocates of Native-made art. In the early 1990s, Tony started to work with other Zuni artists, travelling across the country representing their work. Tony has spent much of his time marketing fetish carvings, paintings, beadwork and pottery from a number of Zuni artists, including three of their five children.

Tony has worked for many years educating the public on the authenticity of American Indian arts and crafts. He has served on the Board of the Indian Art and Crafts Association (IACA), has been a spearhead of the Council of Indigenous Arts and Culture (CIAC) and served as President of the independent Zuni Cultural Arts Council. As Tony promotes authenticity and markets the work of artists, Ola continues to create their signature designs in exceptional jewelry.

Current Works by Ola and Tony Eriacho on our Online Store or email for current selection in the Shop

© The Indian Craft Shop 2002; updated 2012