Virgil Ortiz's new jewelry collection draws on elements and symbols from his Cochiti Pueblo heritage. Wild spinach and turkey tracks, for example, can be seen in earrings, bangles, cuffs and cuff links. Photo courtesy Virgil Ortiz
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Pueblo artist Virgil Ortiz announces jewelry collaboration with Smithsonian

Virgil Ortiz, an artist from Cochiti Pueblo, is debuting an ambitious set of new works this month as part of a special collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Ortiz is well known for his award-winning ceramics and clothing designs. But he branched out into silversmithing for this partnership and ended up creating a large collection of pieces for men and women.

In doing so, he drew on his tribe's traditions. He incorporated symbols like water, wild spinach and turkey tracks, which represent important elements of his people's way of life, into bangles, earrings, necklaces and other items.

“All of my work is focused on preserving traditional Cochiti culture and art forms,” said Ortiz, who resides on his tribe's reservation in New Mexico.

The new collection will be exclusively available at the NMAI's facilities in Washington, D.C., and New York City. But Ortiz is also premiering them in Santa Fe in just two weeks, ahead of an extremely busy weekend for Indian artists.

A dress by Virgil Ortiz is seen on the right as part of the Native Fashion Now exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The city is hosting four Indian markets that weekend. The mainstay is the Santa Fe Indian Market, which has faced criticism in the New Mexico media for changes in policies that prevented some prominent Indian artists from participating in this year's show.

The Indigenous Fine Arts Market and We Are The Seeds have sprouted up to fill the void. Both events were started by former staffers of Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the organization behind Indian Market.

As Indian Market approaches its 100th year, IFAM is putting on its third show from August 18-19. We Are The Seeds is just getting started with its inaugural event from August 17-19.

The Zuni Market is returning this year with its second show in Santa Fe. The August 19-20 event showcase the arts and culture of Zuni Pueblo, another New Mexico tribe.

Ortiz, who comes from a long line of potters, won his first Indian Market award when he was just 14. He's continued to show his ceramics there but also ran a temporary shop in recent years to showcase his expanding fashion collection.

This year, Ortiz will be at the King Galleries in Santa Fe on August to show off his new jewelry pieces. He's also basking in accolades as part of the Native Fashion Now exhibit at the NMAI in New York City. A dress he created in collaboration with designer Donna Karan is featured in the "Groundbreakers" portion of the exhibit, which runs through September 4.