Debbie Silversmith is a Navajo-Italian artist from St. Michaels, AZ. Born on April 2, 1957 to the Honaghanii clan, Debbie was raised by her grandparents, and thus was “constantly involved with their influence, especially Grandpa,” she recalls. Her grandfather, Kenneth Begay, was a famous and talented jewelry artist and taught Debbie many jewelry skills, techniques, and styles. At around the age of 10, Debbie started helping her grandfather with his work. “He sold my first necklace – silver beads – when I was 12,” she remembers. Debbie also studied fine arts at Arizona State University under David Pimentel.
To this day, Debbie still practices the same techniques as her grandfather taught her. All her pieces are completely fabricated by hand, and she only uses a machine to buff. All casts are tufa overlay, another method influenced by her grandfather. Debbie also credits her designs to her grandfather, who is known for his strand bracelets, overlays, and shadowboxing from the 1930s.
Largely due to her upbringing, Debbie has not only developed an incredible talent for what she does, but also a strong passion and appreciation for jewelry and art. “Every day I try to wake up in beauty. I am very enthused by my culture and teaching. Every thing I look at seems to be art or I’ll make it. I have respect for all types of art,” says Debbie.