Native artist Pat Pruitt (Laguna Pueblo, Chiricahua Apache) started making jewelry over twenty years ago under the tutelage of a local silversmith here in New Mexico. Over the years he melded traditional stamp-and-hammer techniques with new skills as a student of mechanical engineering and a professional machinist. He’s now a master of stainless steel who works as a professional metalsmith from his studio on the Laguna Pueblo reservation. His beautiful bracelets, belt buckles, and other creations flout expectations of what Native art “should” be like.
On August 12 Pruitt will make a special appearance at Shumakolowa Native Arts in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center to present his new line of work, “The Art of Light at 1,064 nm.” Everyone is invited to this free event to learn about the evolution of his personal style, or just find some treasures to take home from his trunk sale.
In anticipation of his visit, we asked Pruitt to tell us more about his work. Dive into his thoughts as you get excited to meet the artist in person later this month.
How have your metalworking and artistry evolved over the years?
I feel they have both progressed as new materials, techniques, and/or equipment have become available to me. Trying to figure out what materials work best in certain applications, finding a new function within the design software, or investing in new equipment that allows me to do things I have never done before.
What people, trends, or experiences most influenced your work?
I would say, today, a multitude of individuals bring me inspiration. With access to amazing artists through Facebook and Instagram, you get to see a ton of really cool stuff out there. One person that really stands out, in my opinion, is metal sculptor Chris Bathgate. I have never met the guy, but his work posted on Instagram blows my mind.
As for influence through experience, that is a difficult one. Lately I haven’t had as much time I would like to devote to my work due to other obligations. My experience has taught me to try and keep things pretty simple these days… and simple is a difficult thing to do.
What’s new or different in your latest collection?
The new line “The Art of Light at 1064 nm” is a collection that emerged with the purchase of an industrial marking laser. Without it, this collection would be impossible to make. I hope the work gives people a sense for the power of light. A laser is the optical amplification of light; the ability to control light has evolved over the years, allowing us to do some amazing thing these days. With the marking laser, I can control the intensity, frequency, and speed the light moves across the surface of the metal. Controlling this light, I can erode material away, change the surface of the metal, and even create various shades of black and brown on stainless steel. The precision at which this laser operates really opens up the design envelope for me.
What new directions do you think you’ll take in the years to come?
I’ll keep you guys guessing on that one.
Learn more about Pat Pruitt and explore his creations at Shumakolowa Native Arts. Then come meet him in person here at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center:
Pat Pruitt: The Art of Light at 1,064 nanometers
Fri. August 12, 6-8 pm
Shumakolowa Native Arts
2401 12th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
This event is free and open to the public.