Artist Ray Tracey has had a life-long love of jewelry. As a child growing up in Sawmill, AZ, Asa Tracey, his Grandfather, influenced him with his stories of working the goat bellows for his uncle. Asa would pump the goat bellows all day long to fuel the fire in the forge that would melt silver in a small cast iron crucible. This process was very labor intensive and his grandfather hated it. The molten silver would then be poured into a tufa stone mold to form an ingot. The jeweler would then execute his craft and a new piece of jewelry would be created.
“I wanted to see finished jewelry and wanted to learn everything I could. Whenever we would go to Gallup, NM, I would visit curio stores to see creations in silver.” Ray spent time viewing jewelry designs at the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial and at the Navajo Nation Fair. Anywhere, there was jewelry on display; Ray could be seen viewing the works of art.
Ray’s family moved to Ganado, AZ when he was six years old. One summer day when he was nine years old, he complained to his mother of how bored he was. The next day his mother enrolled him into summer school and changed his life forever. He went straight to art class and found a silver smithing table in the corner. He remembered his grandfather’s stories and the rest is history.
“In class I fabricated my first ring out of silver for my Mother. I found an unknown stone and made a cabochon. I tried to copy an old style ring design that I had seen at Hubbells Trading Post. One teardrop flanked the sides of the stone. It was a very simple design but it took me a week to finish. I kept melting the silver. I made my next silver and stone creation at the age of 21 and gave it to my mother. It was another ring, but this time it was a split shank with three ribs and three tear drops on the side of the stone.” I told my father, I want to make jewelry for the rest of my life.”
Ray continued making jewelry while attending Brigham Young University. Studying chemistry and physics by day and making jewelry at night. “The designs were simple, my first love was Old Style Navajo jewelry. Weekends were spent traveling to Gallup, NM, to sell his work. While at BYU another opportunity arose to express his creativity—acting. “I wasn’t a very good student so Hollywood had an instant appeal. My gift of creativity carried over into acting. Acting was just another outlet of creative expression.” His adventurous nature allowed Ray to spend several years as an actor in feature films and television. This acting detour never made him lose interest in jewelry design. Eventually, Ray’s love of jewelry brought him back to New Mexico to permanently pursue this art form.