The concept of Wild Pony Trading Company started long before the company was actually founded. Theresa, remembers when she was growing up driving between her home in Southern California and Texas to visit family and being enthralled by the Southwest. She fell in love with everything from the landscape to the people and the different cultures but she was particularly fascinated by the Native American culture. Later on in life, after many different careers, she had the opportunity to create a small craftsman gallery in Texas. This is where her involvement with Navajo jewelry really took off. She had collected pieces on and off through the years, but as she began to curate the collection for the gallery, she started to develop and foster friendships with many of the Navajo artists that Wild Pony currently works with today. Join me as we take a deeper look at Wild Pony Trading Company and how Theresa and Bo are celebrating the art of Navajo jewelry.
Krysta: What did the early days of Wild Pony Trading Company look like?
Theresa: Early in 2020, I made the decision to sell my half of the gallery and make the move to New Mexico with my elderly father. He and I both knew that we were on borrowed time together as he had been diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis several years before. It was then that I began the process of creating all of the components that would be needed to get WPTCo. off the ground. In the beginning, the main focus was really on building up a higher-end, quality collection and fostering those relationships and friendships I had made with the Navajo artists we work with. In the same fashion, I began building our Instagram account, again, with an emphasis on fostering relationships. To us, it is not just about a sale, we truly believe that it is about building relationships that transcend the traditional role of retailer/client. I knew that to create an online business and ask people to trust us with their jewelry collection, they would need to feel confident and secure in us as individuals and not just as a business.
We started doing tradeshows in September of 2022 and it was within those first few shows that we really took off and it has just been a wild ride ever since!
Krysta: Curating beautiful silversmith and turquoise jewelry pieces is no easy feat. How do you pick pieces to offer in your business?
Theresa: One of the biggest factors when considering new pieces to add to the collection is always quality. For us, we want to showcase pieces from Navajo artists that capture the essence of the culture but are also high quality and showcase the artistry of it. We do want to set ourselves apart from the crowd so we do try to offer unique, individual pieces. There are, of course, certain artists that we try to always have in the case such as Sunshine Reeves, Leon Martinez, and of course the work of our family members. There are quite a few others that we love to work with and we just love their incredible creations!
Krysta: What is it like working with authentic Navajo artists to supply some of your jewelry?
Theresa: I will never forget the first time I actually met Sunshine Reeves. I tried to remain composed, but in all honesty, I completely “fangirled”. I had been a fan of his work for quite some time as his stamp work is some of the best in the world! I have such high regard for these artists and their craft. I love having the ability to ask them to create pieces and to have total creative freedom in the design process. It’s always exciting when I get to see the finished piece.
Krysa: You don’t just curate beautiful jewelry, Bo also makes pieces of his own. Bo, can you tell me a little more about how you got started in silversmithing?
Bo: I began by watching my mother and aunts as a young boy and then as I got older I started working with my brother Tommy, cutting and shaping stones after school each day. As I got older, I moved on to buffing the finished pieces for him. Then, when I was about 12 years old, he gave me some scraps of silver and a few stones and that was the beginning of my first piece of jewelry. I turned those scrap pieces into a ring with Sleeping Beauty turquoise.
From there, my mom taught me how to make simple rings and earrings that could be made on the go. I still create some of those pieces to this day as we travel from show to show. My aunts Stella and Ida taught me how to match and set stones. I worked on jewelry with my family until I was about 30 and that’s when life took me in a different direction as my focus turned to my young daughters. It would be almost another 30 years before I returned to silversmithing again thanks to Theresa.
Krysta: Do you have a creative process for creating specialty pieces?
Bo: Not so much a set procedure or process, it is more of a feeling if you will. I let my heart and passion for creating lead me. Oftentimes, I will dream about a piece or an idea then when I get up the next morning I will either draw out my ideas on a scrap of paper or I will start laying out stones, working off of the ideas in my dreams.
Each piece of custom work that I create is made with a lot of positive thoughts and feelings. I like to instill good energy into each piece so that the piece carries that positivity over to the new owner.
Krysta: What significance does turquoise have in the Navajo culture?
Bo: Known in Navajo as “Doo tl’ izh ii,” turquoise is representative of one of the four sacred mountains to the Navajo. In fact, Mt. Taylor, just outside of Grants, New Mexico where we are based, is known as the turquoise mountain. Turquoise itself represents protection, good fortune, and wisdom and has a very calming effect.
Krysta: When people are shopping for authentic Navajo jewelry, what are your best recommendations to ensure you’re supporting artists while also making sure you’re getting a real piece?
Theresa: We always tell people that when they are looking for pieces, to consider them as wearable works of art. Quality is foremost when we are considering which pieces to bring into the collection. We want to make sure all of our pieces, whether they are made by Bo or another artist, are of superior quality. When someone buys a piece from us, we want it to be something that they can pass down for years to come. We always tell them to do their research and look for reputable sources (should they be purchasing from somewhere other than Wild Pony Trading.
As a rule, we try to purchase our pieces directly from the artists themselves, whenever possible. All pieces should be stamped with “sterling” if they are in fact sterling silver. There should also be the artist’s hallmark stamp if the piece is Native American-made.
Turquoise and traditional Navajo Jewelry is still used in religious and cultural observations to this day. One of our passions at WPTCo. is to educate people on the significance of turquoise in the Navajo culture and the important role that it still plays to this day. One thing that we often see while on the road is the misunderstanding between authentic Navajo-made jewelry and other pieces that are either utilizing fake turquoise or using culturally appropriated designs. Not only do these pieces undermine the generations of tradition and techniques, but they also take something that is sacred and holy to the Navajo people and turn it into a mass-produced item. When you purchase 100% authentic Native made designs and artwork, you can rest easy knowing that you are not only making an investment in a wearable work of art, but you are also taking a big step in helping to ensure that a long-standing history and art form will continue for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
Having met Bo and Theresa personally, I am genuinely thrilled to share their story. While Navajo jewelry is the trend in the Western industry, it’s important to remember and respect the culture that created it. You can learn more about Wild Pony Trading Company at WildPonyTradingCo.com. They are traveling to several shows this spring so make sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram to see where they will be next.
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