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Fourth generation artist holds family tradition close to heart

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Featured artist Jude Candelaria

If you love what you do every day – then it’s not work, and how many of us can truly say that?

Zuni artist Jude Candelaria is one of those people who can say that and truly loves what he does. Born and raised in Gallup, Candelaria comes from a long line of talented craftsman from the Pueblo of Zuni, 33 miles south of Gallup. He’s the fourth generation of a family of amazing silversmith artists.

Candelaria grew up watching the silversmiths in his family create and perfect family designs.

At age 11, he started helping his family by polishing the beautiful crafts his great-grandfather Juan Calabaza made. He was fascinated by what his family was doing at the table, and later found himself gravitating towards it.

It wasn’t until he grew older that he seriously began thinking about following the tradition of his family.

“I would always watch my great-grandfather Juan Calabaza, and it was he that was my greatest influence,” Calabaza said. “All my family were into making jewelry, so it was only fitting that I would be a part of this craft.”

Candelaria said his great-grandfather’s designs influence his work to this day.

His grandmother took it from there, and he said having his family around has helped him hone his craft. It wasn’t until six years ago that he began stamping out his own name onto the works that he created. It’s mainly his custom work that people often ask for these days, he said.

“I took the style and made it my own with some changes,” he said. “My custom work consists of nugget jewelry, not inlay, like tufa casting and it takes the shape of the design. I’ve done rings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, buckles, earrings. You name it, I’ve done it.”

Candelaria said with his custom work, he expands on the creative. He said he respects his work, as he was taught to do by his family elders, and to appreciate it.

“I feel lucky to do what I do, I love what I do,” he said. “I strive and do clean work and keep it classy, as well as keeping it an old look, old influences, and adding modern twists to my work. I’m an artist and I can do whatever I want.”

His work incorporates flowers and hummingbirds. Often, he’ll draw it out and then apply it to the stone. To which he’ll design a piece around. He uses all-natural stones and of the highest quality. The most expensive piece he’s ever sold went for $600.

He sells to local traders, and it’s creating custom pieces that keeps him busy.

It’s simple word of mouth that keeps Candelaria moving forward.

For more information, contact Jude Candelaria via email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun