Published on February 10, 2013 by Casey
Born and raised on the Navajo Reservation near Teesto, Arizona, Billy Betoney tended livestock for his parents until he entered primary education in the local boarding school. He transferred to Oklahoma and enrolled in a five-year program, where his art interest grew while watching students create works of art using pencil. He began drawing with pencil, not knowing he could make money as an artist.
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During the mid 1970s, Billy’s wife, Betty, taught him the art of silversmithing as a way to ease the pain she felt after losing her mother. He was a natural. Soon he was making rings, bracelets, and eventually large necklaces. Betty and Billy Betoney found jewelry-making to be satisfying, especially after selling their first piece in Second Mesa, Arizona.
With more experience, Billy no longer needed to draw his patterns ahead of time. The designs were visionary. He began to incorporate his mother’s rug designs into the jewelry he made. He cut 1/8-inch-high silver strips and formed them to the desired shapes, creating a unique, original form of design.
In the late 1980s, Billy tried entering Santa Fe Indian Market on five separate occasions and was denied each time. Determined to show his work, a close relative allowed him to share a booth at Indian Market in 1989. That year he won “Most Creative Design – Any Class,” and continued to win numerous first- and second-place prizes in consecutive years.
Billy Betoney’s style is unmistakable, with his use of duster, petite point, diamond-shape, oval, and round stones combined with rug designs formed from silver strips. Billy continues to concentrate on new ideas and designs for his work.
He says, “As time continues, I will use the skills God has given me. I don’t plan on relaxing; if I do time will leave me behind.”