I remember him telling us [that] he got up every day hoping to give more than he got from life. He believed when we give more than we take, civilization advances. When more people take than give, civilization regresses.
-Alan Bell, on his father Saul Bell, founder of Rio Grande
On Saturday, November 23, the 2013 Montezuma Ball, a popular charity event in Albuquerque, will hold an auction to benefit several worthy non-profits in the state. It will be an evening with a gorgeous, historically rich theme, The Year of Turquoise. The name and the cause lured Molly Bell, a Rio Grande director and daughter of founder Saul Bell, to rise to the occasion. It’s a good Thanksgiving story about being grateful, giving back to the community, and collaborating within Albuquerque's jewelry industry. And, in the end, the results are stunning!
A Ball is Born
The first Montezuma Ball took place in 1902 as a social event to rival those in other metropolitan areas of the time, such as Denver and St. Louis. It was inspired by Lew Wallace’s book The Fair God, and it was quite an affair! It included a parade with floats, and for several years, one featured a giant eagle ridden by Montezuma, hence the Ball’s name. The Ball was suspended in 1917 due to the U.S. entry into World War I, but it was revived after the war and held in the Alvarado Hotel, a beloved Harvey-era hotel in Albuquerque. When the hotel was demolished, the Ball dissolved as well. That was in 1970.*
The Ball is Back . . .
. . . and it’s focus is philanthropic! In 2000, Jim Long of Hotel Albuquerque was instrumental in reviving the Montezuma Ball as both a charity event for local beneficiaries, and a great celebration of New Mexican history. Since that time, the Ball has raised over one million dollars for various New Mexico charities. This year, the primary beneficiary is WESST, a non-profit which fosters small business development and growth. It’s a life-changing organization that has created opportunity over the years for tens of thousands of low-income and women entrepreneurs, among others. For some time, Rio Grande has supported WESST. We believe in its positive ripple effect on many New Mexican lives.
Montezuma Ball is a powerful philanthropic force in New Mexico. Its main fundraising mechanism? Each year the Ball features a small number of live auction items, each appraised at no less than $5,000. This year, one of those items is the result of a collaboration between Molly Bell and exquisite local jewelry artist, Shane R. Hendren.
Shane’s Star Power
Even a short conversation with Shane Hendren reveals a deeply-rooted family history, an unwavering personal compass, and the humility one would expect from a much lesser talent. One gets the sense that he's tapped into an ancient wisdom (with a capital "W"), and that this manifests in his jewelry.
When Shane was a boy, his father took him to see the Great Basin Buckaroos in Nevada. The vaqueros sported glimmering silver cowboy gear, heavily engraved and of exquisite quality—able to weather many beatings. These were treasures meant not to be boastful, but to reflect their pride as cowboys. Shane made the connection between this way of life and the Navajo ideals of wearing one’s wealth, and owning only what one can carry.
Native American history runs through Shane’s veins, not just because of his Navajo genes, but because of his experiences on the land and with horses. He comes from a long line of ranchers, and, at age 12, he inherited part of his great grandmother’s ranch, known as the Chaco Canyon Ranch Headquarters. He remembers the day when his great uncle picked him up in his truck, showed him his gear, his land, and his horses. He was dropped off that night to learn the realities of life on the ranch. That ranch is ten miles away from the Chaco Canyon site, a place that historians now know was a turquoise processing and distribution center for the Native American community.
Art runs deep in his family as well: Shane's dad is a poet, his mother a quilter, and his great-grandmother a textile weaver in the Native American tradition. Shane himself won awards for his paintings and sculptures as a young man, but he chose jewelry as the best of both worlds when he had the opportunity to study it. With several fine arts degrees, one from the University of New Mexico, Shane is now internationally acclaimed and collected. He has won many awards, including the 2007 Artist of the Year award from the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, and his bolo took first place at the 2012 Heard Museum Indian Market. He is a valuable member of the Advisory Board of AtlAtl and the boards of Indian Arts and Crafts Association and its Education Fund. In 2010, he was recognized on the floor of the NM House of Representatives for his service to the arts. All of this, and he was called on by the British Museum in 2009 as an expert panelist on the new school of Native American turquoise jewelry—of which he is exemplary—at the Turquoise, Henry Christy, and museum collections conference. So, Shane Hendren is not only exceptionally talented, but he has a heart to give back to his community.
What’s more, over the years, Shane has established a meaningful history with Rio Grande. First, he studied mokume gane with Sessin Durgham, a Saul Bell Design Award winner and now an expert on Rio’s Technical Support Team. Then, Shane won a scholarship to Santa Fe Symposium, a jewelry manufacturing and technology event hosted by Rio Grande and held in Albuquerque each year. It seems wonderfully fitting that Shane would team up with Rio Grande again, this time to benefit the larger community.
Molly, Shane, and Turquoise
Molly approached Shane about creating a one-of-a-kind, exquisite necklace and earring set for The Year of Turquoise auction. She asked Shane if he would donate his design and fabrication expertise, if Rio Grande donated the gold, silver, and turquoise. Shane gladly agreed, and he got goose bumps when he handled the turquoise that the family presented him with: rare, rough, untreated turquoise from the inactive Stormy Mountain mine in Nevada. Over forty years ago, the Bell family acquired this turquoise. It came from one of the preeminent turquoise cutters in New Mexico. For many years, he set aside exceptional turquoise for his personal collection. When he retired, he sold the entire collection to the Bell family, who has kept all of it, untouched, waiting for an opportunity to use this treasure wisely. It literally sat in safe keeping until now. Here's a clip of Shane sorting through the turquoise for the very first time:
Shane went to work, creating drawings for the Bell family to choose from. His Navajo heritage led him to incorporate some traditional iconography and symbolism, and he integrated the turquoise in several designs rich in pattern, tradition, and sophistication. Shane’s fabricated design, now an exquisite hand-engraved silver, gold, and Stormy Mountain turquoise necklace and earring set, accented with faceted topaz, will be unveiled this Saturday at the Montezuma Ball’s live auction!
Images of Shane’s necklace, as well as a video about Shane and the necklace, are under wraps, only to be revealed at the Ball. However, be sure to stop by The Studio on Thanksgiving Day, when we’ll reveal Shane's masterpiece as well as the video. You’ll be inspired when you read about his process, the meaning in his symbolic forms, and the engravings!
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