Carlos White Eagle

Carlos White Eagle, Apache, got started making silver jewelry in the early 1940's when he was just a young boy. He remembers fondly watching and assisting his uncle (godfather) and teacher, noted silversmith Fred Peshlakai as he made his jewelry in his little shop on Olvera street in Los Angeles, CA. Fred taught Carlos that crafting silver should only be done by hand using only the highest quality turquoise he could find.

In the early 1950's Carlos White Eagle joined the Military and went to war in Korea. When he returned he began working at Zuni where he lived with Dan Simplicio. He has great respect for Dan's work and can remember them staying up all night so that they could "bang out bracelets that they sold to traders for $65 each."

Carlos is credited for creating many of the stamped buttons that you see on old Zuni pieces. When Carlos talks about his time at Zuni and with Dan, his face really lights up. He was an influential artist who with his friend Dan Simplicio was among the first to create foliate designs and stamped button is now a bookmark for their era. He was on top of the world and having a blast.

It is sad that not long into his career, Carlos became very disenchanted with the Native American Jewelry market. One day he found that he could no longer even afford to buy materials he used in his art so he moved to the middle of nowhere which today is called Palm Desert, California. He began a business as a landscaper and his wife took a job working for Dwight D Eisenhower. Interestingly when Carlos came to visit us, he swore that we are almost right on top of the land where his house was many many years earlier.

One day Mrs. Eisenhower noticed the beautiful jewelry his wife was wearing and asked her about it. She told her about Carlos and the struggles he encountered as an artist. Well the Eisenhower's felt that his talents should not go to waste and handed her a bag of sterling silver spoons that they found around their house so that Carlos could make them some special pieces. Their kindnesses reenergized Carlos and to this day are credited with being the inspiration that allowed him to follow his dream once again.

Carlos went on to produce jewelry for the Hollywood crowd of the 60's and 70's which included Cher and Elvis Presley. The Concho belt that Elvis is wearing was made by Carlos.

It is almost impossible to find any of Carlos's jewelry on the market today. Collectors that know him and the incredible amount of craftsmanship that goes into making his pieces praise him like you have never heard before. He has built up an almost groupie like mentality that you only earn with pure talent. These collectors are attached to their pieces and will not let them go.

His artistry has become obsolete and he exemplifies the phrase, "they just don't make them like that anymore."

Every single piece that carries his hallmark or signature was made 100% by him and by hand. He won't even cast anything and feels that casting even in Tufa takes away from the art. Every piece including the wolf in this picture is hammered into a general form that he creates and then is hand carved for all of the detailing. It is actually quite amazing how much life he puts into each piece. He uses stones to add the colors of life to his jewelry and was the first to inlay the stones around the outside edge of his pieces. He is an artist first and a jeweler second.

Because he puts so much of himself into making something, he believes that they are worthy of only the best natural material. Throughout his career he has traded jewelry for some of the best turquoise and coral ever seen on the market and I must say he is quite attached to it too.

He takes inspiration from his culture, his history, the different materials that he uses and especially LOVE. He respects each inspiration for what it brings to him and treats it with care and finesse in order to create pieces that speak to everyone.

Carlos's jewelry has so much meaning to him and his family that he would rather make a living painting faces at Powwows than mass produce any of it which means that everything he makes is a special one of kind and will not do anything less.

On a personal note, I must say that I was a little intimidated when I went out to visit him at his home for the first time. But as soon as we arrived there he was standing there welcoming us with open arms and a feather in his cap. It took us no time to warm up to each other. He and his wife are the kindest people you will ever meet and we just adore them.

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