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Robert Whitehair Begay is a young, up-and-coming jeweler and artist who learned to make tufa cast jewelry mainly from his father, Darryl Dean Begay. His mother, Rebecca T. Begay, is also an established jeweler and an artist. Robert has always enjoyed drawing and started craving the tufa stone at four years old. He says it was fun and exciting to make art pieces and go to shows with his parents and his two older brothers.
Robert remembers that when he was six years old and his parents won the Best of Show in 2009 at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, he too, won a first place ribbon for a silver tufa cast seedpot along with a third place ribbon for a painting. It’s something he’ll always remember, he says. He has won other awards throughout the years.
In August 2019, Robert had back-to-back awards at two of the Indian art shows that both occur annually every month in August. Robert first won Best of Youth at both the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Market for a bracelet called, “Cheii’s Land” and he then won Best of Youth at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market for a bolo tie called, “Cheii’s Style” which was a very nice surprise for him that year. More recently, Robert was juried in for the first time as an adult in the 2022 Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. He won second place from an exceptional concho belt titled: “The People’s Pandemic.” Currently, Robert is inspired to do Southwest scenery and really enjoys carving the human form, mainly figures of Native American men. He likes to try to show their attire and how some have unique clothing like scarves, bandanas, sunglasses, hats, etc. He also likes to try to show their different poses. Something that has also inspired Robert’s carving designs the past year is the covid crisis. For example, Robert made some jewelry with male figures guarding or protecting their toilet paper, small pendants of people with masks and the concho belt mentioned above.
All in all, Robert works hard and has truly perfected the art of carving various imagery on the tufa stone. He is really coming into his own style with exceptional skill and talent. Robert is also a 2020-2021 recipient of “The Goodman Aspiring Artist Fellowship” presented by the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe, NM. Robert looks forward to making more works of art with his jewelry.