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Archive for Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hutchinson artist crafts jewelry from turquoise

July 12, 2009

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Chester Horse holds his handcrafted jewelry made from turquoise at his home in Hutchinson. Horse is a silversmith and believes that God gave him the gift of creating one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Chester Horse holds his handcrafted jewelry made from turquoise at his home in Hutchinson. Horse is a silversmith and believes that God gave him the gift of creating one-of-a-kind jewelry.

— As a child, Chester Horse watched an elderly man in his Kiowa tribe dabble, making pieces of jewelry from silver coins.

They were small, with not much silver in them, and the man worked with few tools.

“I’m going to try that,” Horse told himself.

Using dimes and quarters he pounded out on a chunk of railroad iron, Horse started with earrings and other small items, but in those early days, he didn’t work with turquoise. He didn’t have any.

“That’s how it started,” he said.

Seated at the dining room table in his Hutchinson home, Horse shared the philosophies he lives by as they connect to his exquisite hand-crafted turquoise jewelry.

“God has given me a trait I could build on to be a better man,” Horse said. “He has gifted me with my hands.”

His grandfather encouraged him to leave their native Oklahoma and “go where the white people are, live with them the rest of your life to get away from the prejudice.”

He joined the military to follow his grandfather’s advice. When his term of service ended, he found his way to Hutchinson. He couldn’t find anything but menial work when Hutchinson Community College football coach Bill Goldsmith found him and asked Horse to play football and go to school.

That led to a football scholarship at Sterling College and a Bible class with religion professor Lester Taylor. Led by Taylor’s influence, Horse embraced a newfound Christian faith.

Time taught him that as an American Indian, he had to work to be the best he could be. For three years, he taught sports and physical education at Sherman Junior High in Hutchinson and served as a counselor at an art institute in New Mexico.

“This was always with me,” Horse said, sweeping his hand over the display of his work.

A big man, tall and still muscular at age 78, he enjoys good health. Turning from the serious mood that he wore while sharing other topics, Horse smiled. “I’m just getting old and tired.”

It isn’t easy to create the pieces that come from his heart and his hands and then sell them.

True to the Indian ways, he’d rather give them away.

“But what are you going to do to get food on the table?” he asked.

As he works, he wants each piece he makes to be the best piece the person who buys it can have. Each piece is one of a kind and made with love.

It hurts that white people don’t understand the feelings of his people, Horse said. And it hurts when they try to whittle down the price after so much of his time and talent have gone into making each piece.

“The general public doesn’t know how an Indian loves to make jewelry,” he said.

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