Yesterday, we had the great pleasure of spending some time with Melvin Sandoval in his San Felipe Pueblo home.
We were driving through the Pueblo on our way to another meeting when we passed Melvin's home. One of his sons was in the front yard tending to the corn crop that was in various stages of ripening. Melvin later told us some of it already had been harvested, while other rows are still to reach maturity.
We pulled into Melvin's driveway and called to his son, "Is Melvin here?" In less than thirty seconds, Melvin emerged from behind his tidy, manufactured home. His hands were filled with small pieces of stone and covered with dust. We had caught him in the act of carving.
After a few seconds of "who are you?" looks from Melvin, we identified ourselves, "Susanne and Bill Waites". We had not seen Melvin for a couple of years. His appearance had changed and so had ours. Of course, we had the advantage of knowing where we were. For Melvin, we were just two people who appeared unannounced in a (rental) car he didn't recognize.
As the light of recognition came on, there were hearty, "How are you"s, followed by embraces of reunion.
Melvin invited us into his home and we sat at his dining table, catching up. He has a new granddaughter, by name of Madison, and he had started carving in earnest again, after a break for family and pueblo duties.
He showed us some of his newest carvings - a couple of otters, a couple of wolves and an eagle. The first four are in dolomite, a stone he likes to carve but has not had much supply of lately. The eagle is in travertine.
As he shared his vision, artistry and motivation with us, we asked if we could record him talking about it.
We enjoy our time with Melvin, as we do with all of our artist friends from Native America.
It is one of the fringe benefits of operating web sites that feature their work - ZuniLink.com, Native-JewelryLink.com, Native PotteryLink.com and TribalWorks.com.
We hope you also will enjoy this encounter with Melvin Sandoval, a San Felipe carver with ties to Zuni and a deft touch in the Zuni style. His new carvings will be available on ZuniLink in September.