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Jennifer says much of what she learned about making Navajo jewelry was taught to her by her father, Thomas Curtis, Sr., an award-winning silversmith. "He stressed the importance of patience, tolerance, perseverance, and quality...I've always had a great relationship with my dad." Born and raised on the Navajo Reservation near Winslow, Arizona, Curtis now lives with her husband, Ray, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "From the time I was about eight years old, I hung around my father's workbench, helping him with buffing, polishing, filing, and so on." Her inspiration comes from her family and Dinetah (the Navajo homeland). "The rug design I etch comes from my grandmother's weaving. Other symbols are inspired by the landscape I grew up with: the clouds and canyons."
She became more serious about her own art career while in her 20s and developed the contemporary style that she is now known for. This style is grounded in such age-old traditions as hand-hammering, stamping, and the use of heavy-gauge metal.
Her silver vessels, wine goblets and bracelets are her-most popular designs although she also makes earrings, buckles and rings. Recently Jennifer added gold and inlay work to her list of styles. "Besides my dad, I am inspired especially by Navajo jeweler Raymond Yazzie and Hopi jeweler Sonwai [Verma Nequatewa]." Another creative influence on her art has been her uncle, jeweler Billy Betoney. Jennifer's love for her work is strengthened by the bond she feels with her materials. "All the elements I work with (the silver and the stones), come from Mother Earth."
Jennifer has a competitive side that also adds to her work. "When somebody says something is impossible to do I like trying to meet that challenge. But I also want to stay humble and remember how my loved ones have always been there for me."
Her creations have garnered numerous awards since 1994. "If you want to be recognized you must do the job right," she says quietly. "What my work represents is what I want someone to see in me-that I care about what I make ... The awards are great honors, but the most important accomplishment is meeting the standards of my family ... I want my work to be as good as a handshake."