The villages at the Hopi Pueblo in northern Arizona mark time by the ceremonial calendar, with duties and dances designated by the sun, the moon and the seasons. The Kachinas appear between the winter solstice and late July, bringing blessings and rain to the Hopi people and watching them observe the rituals that keep life in balance.
The Kachinas are the spirits inherent in all living things, they are the breath of life that makes rain for all. When the Hopi men don the "friend" and become the Kachina impersonators, they have the ability to connect with the spirit world.
Kachina tihu are carved by a girl's uncle for her religious education and as a gift from the Kachinas. As a baby, she is given the Cradle doll, and as she grows up her tihu become more elaborate and defined. These dolls are to be played with to nurture her motherly instincts as well as to learn the appearance and details of the specific Kachina. Gifts are given during the Powamu and Home Dance. Boys are given gifts of rattles, bow and arrows, drums and games.
Non-Hopi have been collecting Kachina carvings for well over 150 years, many fine old dolls are displayed in museums around the world. Antique Kachinas are bringing huge dollars at auction and have spurred the making of some fakes.
The best art form to emerge is the New Traditional Style as opposed to the finely detailed Sculptural Style which gained popularity in the late 20th century.
A true Kachina doll is carved from the dried root of the cottonwood tree, a water seeking tree which connects the prayer for rain to the Kachina. Some carvers use just rudimentary files and knives while others have sophisticated tools and wood burners. The paints used vary from the minerals and clay found in nature to acrylic, tempura and oil paints from the store. Each artist has his comfort zone and collectors have their preferences.
The most important thing to keep in mind when collecting Kachinas is that true Kachinas must be carved by a Pueblo Indian, it is their religion and has living significance. The Navajo Indians have been making their interpretation of Kachinas for over thirty years, but they have no intrinsic value as this is not a part of their own religious beliefs. It is a real affront to the Hopi!
We are proud to represent many of the contemporary Hopi Indian artists featured in Jonathan Day's book "Traditional Hopi Kachinas A New Generation of Carvers". You will see us pictured there also. And now we have many more young carvers following this path.
In the sculptural Kachina category, we mainly work with Clayton Kaniatobe and Mike Roy George for nicely detailed carvings within a reasonable price frame.
Many older carvers' art may be found when we acquire collections of earlier material. We are always looking for dolls by Jimmy K., Wilfred Tewaquaptewa and unsigned pieces from days gone by.
Feel free to let us know of your interest and we can notify you of new Kachinas as they come in.