Published on February 16, 2013 by Casey
Navajo artist Norbert Peshlakai was born on May 6, 1953 in Fort Defiance, AZ. His parents are Ben and Lydia Stevens Peshlakai of Crystal, New Mexico and he is the oldest of nine kids. His mother, Lydia, is a master in Crystal rug weaving. All five of Norbert’s sisters and one brother are weavers of Navajo rugs.
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While studying at Highland High School, Norbert Peshlakai’s creativity and innate artistic abilities became evident as he began to paint and sketch. Norbert also excelled in cross country running while in high school, which helped him get into Haskell Indian Junior College, where he continued to learn the art of painting.
One fateful day, a misunderstanding by an advisor caused Norbert to enroll in the house painting class. “I ended up in the wrong building where a paint brush, pail, and overalls were given to me,” said Norbert. He switched out of the house painting class and decided to “just” enroll in a jewelry class, to fulfill his art credits.
Norbert says he never took the jewelry class seriously and started to ditch classes. One day at the end of the semester, the instructor advised him to get to work and produce six pieces of jewelry for a passing grade. Norbert said it was then, while he was working on the pieces for a class he originally had not planed on taking, that he found his hidden talent for jewelry. This talent eventually made him one of the top master Indian jewelers.
Norbert Peshlakai made his first silver pot in the late 1970s. He makes his own stamps from concrete nails, and has developed his own styles of textures and overlays, for which he is best known. Norbert has been awarded countless ribbons at the Santa Fe Indian Market, The Heard Museum’s Indian Show, The Pueblo Grands Indain Show, and other prestigious shows for his impressive work.
Norbert Peshlakai’s last name in Navajo, Beeshlagaii, appropriately means silver and his chosen hallmark means vision. He is well-respected among artists and collectors alike for his creativity.