Cody  Hunter
Cody Hunter shows one of his masterpiece bracelets.

Cody grew up living at the entrance to Canyon de Chelly, just at the edge of the Navajo town of Chinle, AZ. As a kid, he frequently went up the canyon, foot and horseback. His father always had horses, so he learned riding at a young age. This combination of living around the rock formations and around horses later became the images for his creative jewelry. Cody still lives at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly with his wife and three children.

In high school, Cody took both woodworking shop and metalworking shop. He says that this is where his artistic eye became noticed. He regularly won awards for his creative designs in woodworking. And, his metalworking classes taught him welding and other metal crafts that he transferred to working with silver and gold. "Where did I learn silversmithing? I learned it on my own. I used my experiences from classes in high school, and tips from a few friends. It just sort of came naturally," said Cody.

Cody Hunter

Cody's Inner Beauty bracelet.

After high school, Cody received a partial scholarship and attended a teacher's college for two years. "I was going to be an educator, and help my people," he stated. But after two years, he had to make some more money, to continue. He dropped out to work for a year, and that is when he started silversmithing, full time. He loved this work so much that he never went back to college. He has now been a full-time silversmith for more than 20 years.

Although Cody is an exceptionally hard worker, he spends his free time rodeoing. His specialty is roping, and he attends a rodeo on many weekends. His favorite is team roping, where two riders rope a full grown cow. This is a ranch chore that has turned into a rodeo sport. A man can rope and tie a calf, but not a cow. For the rancher to treat a cow in distress, the cow must be tied down, flat on the ground. This is usually done on the range by two cowboys, simultaneously roping the cow. It is actually a very humane way to bring medications to the cow. In the team, Cody usually takes the part of the "healer," the other rider is known as the "header." The healer throws a lasso loop under the back heals of a thousand-pound, plus, cow, running at about 20 miles an hour. No small trick. The header simultaneously ropes the cow's head. If both ropers succeed, the cow drops to the ground. Cody has several horses living and training on his farm. "After hours and hours of precise, delicate jewelry making, it's relaxing for me to take on the excitement of rodeoing," Cody said.

When making his jewelry, Cody traces the patterns, free hand, taking the images from his head, as he goes. "I never use a template." His artistic abilities allow him to miniaturize the featured landscapes of Canyon de Chelly. His great equestrian knowledge allows him to miniaturize his horses, in very accurate and realistic proportions.

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Making A Bracelet

Cody Hunter The first step is drawing the design on a prepared sheet of sterling silver. Shown is the pattern, drawn fee-hand with a sharp metal scribe. Cody is a true artist, and draws his pattern from images in his head. No two bracelets are exactly the same, similar, but not the same. The silver "blank" is approximately 7/8" wide by a length of between 5" and 7", according to the size of the finished bracelet. The blank is usually 24 gage, or .020" thick. The finished bracelet with include three sheets of silver, a base sheet, and two design sheets, are soldered together into a homogeneous piece. You cannot discern where the sheets are soldered. This will make the high portions of the finished bracelet about the thickness of a US 25-cent piece.


Cutting out the design.

Cody Hunter The next step is cutting out the design on the "cutting board." Cody uses a fine-blade "jewelers saw. This is where experience counts, since one slip the the work is ruined. Although demanding work, Cody can cut a design out at the rate of about one inch in ten minutes, depending on the intricacy of the design. Note the "apron drawer" below the saw. This is a piece of canvas used to catch the silver and gold dust produced by the saw. The saw blades are about the size of a small string, and very delicate. The pressure has to be just right, too much and the blade snaps.

In this style of jewelry making, the designs are cut out and soldered to a base. This technique is appliqué. It is quite different from the Hopi technique of overlay. In the overlay method, the patterns are cut out of the blank and discarded, creating a reverse design.


Cody Hunter.
Looking down on the blank,
you can see the pattern and how it is evolving.

This blank will become what Cody calls his "scenic blank." It is the first layer to be soldered onto the "base blank." It is the layer that usually contains the canyon and rocks detail.


Cody HunterSmall cutouts of 14 kt. gold
form the top or "detail" layer.

Cody calls this the "detail layer." The tiny pieces are drawn and cut separately. After the scenic layer is silver soldered to the base blank, these pieces are then soldered to the composite, making the final and third layer.


Cody HunterSilver Soldering.
Shown here is the first step in the assembly, soldering the first or "scenic" layer to the base of this soon-to-be pendant. The pieces are coated with a flux, and laid together. After heating with an acetylene torch, silver solder is applied, and flows between the two pieces, soldering them together. After this first layer has cooled, Cody will solder the 14 karat gold features, thus forming the third and final layer.


Cody HunterEngraving The Details. Up to this point, we have three, smooth layers of metal soldered together, with outline forms. After rough polishing, Cody takes various engraving tools and punches and adds details. The background is textured. All this gives the forms (clouds, rocks, people, animals) depth and interest. Here is an almost finished storyteller bracelet ready for final polishing.


Cody HunterForming the bracelet.
Cody takes the flat bracelet and forms its final shape on a special steel mandrel. He taps the flat band with a mallet made of rawhide. This bends the silver band to the shape and size of the customer's wrist. This bracelet has actually been formed, but needed some final touches to form the correct curvature. This is the final forming step, done just prior to final polishing.


Cody HunterPolishing.
The first polishing smooths off the sharp edges of the silver and gold pieces. This makes the design flow smoothly from layer to layer. Again, because of Cody's expertise, all of the layers appear to be one, homogenous piece of metal. Here, Cody is making a final touch-up of an Inner Beauty bracelet.

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