The Abetya family, of Santo Domingo, are the artists that provided the AARP sweepstakes prize for this year’s drawing at the 2017 Indian Market in Santa Fe starting Saturday, Aug. 19th, and Sunday, Aug. 20th The AARP booth will have a sweepstakes where attendees can enter for a chance to win one of the family’s creations, a serpentine necklace with a turquoise drop.*
For the Abeytas, the art of jewelry making came naturally. No one ever said they had to follow the family art. It was part of who they are, their traditions and a way to honor their ancestors.
“Our great grandfather, Mariano, he used to work in the Cerrillos turquoise mine and he would get one-half of a tobacco pouch of turquoise for a full day’s work,” said Lester Abeyta. “He used to walk to work every day – it’s about 15 miles from here. It was good money because he could make jewelry and turn it around for more money.”
“We got our start as kids playing with the turquoise. As we were playing we got exposed to it. Sharon had this little box and our brother, Harvey, would sit in it and play with the beads,” Lester said.
Sharon Abeyta, Lester’s sister, said, “We got our start with jewelry making at a young age and from the get go it was a competition as to who would slice the most, string the fastest.”
For the Abeytas jewelry making is a family affair with everyone taking a part. Sharon, Lester and their father, Richard Abeyta, all take turns making the various pieces whether doing the cutting, the drilling, the stringing and the polishing.
“We take turns on what we feel like doing in that moment,” Sharon said.
Lester says their father does most of the slicing, cutting pieces of the stones and shells into smaller pieces using a diamond blade saw with Sharon and Lester doing the clipping.
But still old habits die hard and after all this time it’s still a competition as to who can do the most, the fastest.
“We still get competitive even at the shows. We both entered the Eitlejorge Museum show in Indianapolis, and Lester got second and we both tied for third but I beat him the year before with Best of Division,” Sharon said with a smile.
Despite jewelry making being a strong component of their family life, their parents also gave them the ability to chase their dreams but still home called to them.
“Our mother, Delia, always stressed going to school, getting an education. My brother and sister and I all went to the military academy in Roswell. My dad gave us the ability to do what we wanted to do,” Lester said.
Lester went to school hoping one day to be a vet but the high cost of veterinary school halted those plans.
“I fell back on making jewelry, to practice some of my culture. Every few years the men in our community get to be a tribal leader for a whole year and I was selected to do that a couple of years ago,” he said.
Sharon also serves her community by driving a school bus, which leaves her time to work on her jewelry.
While their jewelry designs follow a certain style, they still try to come up with unique pieces.
“We mostly use stones and shells staying with the traditional style rather than contemporary. We make our jewelry so we can wear it for the events in our community,” Lester said.
Sharon said, “We stay traditional but also fresh and new, something different. It helps that each piece of turquoise has its own distinct characteristic so no two are alike.”
The family has participated in Indian Market since the 70s beginning with their parents. Artists must apply to have a booth at the Market and soon the siblings were awarded the honor.
“The Market is only a half hour away from us and the biggest, most prestigious show in New Mexico so we enjoy being a part of it and its fun. We meet back up with our clients and other artists we see,” Lester said.
And for the Abeytas, the family tradition will continue as Lester’s son, Temuujin, who is 10, will present his first Indian Market piece.
To enter the sweepstakes for the Abeytas’ beautiful necklace visit the AARP booth near the bandstand during Market hours on Saturday or Sunday. The family will also attend the event in their own booth.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Must be 21 years or older to enter. Employees of AARP, their immediate family members and members of their same household are not eligible. Ends on Aug. 20, 2017. Sponsor: AARP. For official rules visit the AARP booth at the 2017 Santa Fe Indian Market.