Information on Navajo Overlay Artist Willie Yazzie

I believe Willie A. Yazzie, Jr was working in the Albuquerque & Gallup areas and may have passed away around 2005. Any information about his life, his family (Father was also a silversmith & used the same Medicine Man’s Dipper hallmark), where he worked (Did he work by himself of for a particular shop?) Who taught him the overlay technique - Did he learn from a Hopi? Thanks for any feedback

I don’t know him or about him personally, but here is an image of a piece being sold at

It certainly does look Hopi. The roadrunner conch alone makes the belt worth the quoted price IMO. Very cool.

Willie A. Yazzie Jr. was working for Turpens Trading Company in the 1960s & 1970s when they had silversmiths make jewelry in house. His dad did the same style, not sure if he learned the style from a Hopi artist. He lived south of Gallup in the Vanderwagen area.

I was browsing through and found this. I am Willie Yazzie Jr., I also go by William P. Yazzie. My late father was Willie A. Yazzie and the photos shown above are his work. My mother also does the same type of silverwork. I still do the same style work but not as much because of my full time job in NE Arizona. My Father learned the trade at Dean Kirk’s trading which was a kind of a trade school located west of Gallup during the late 50’s and early 60’s. From there he sold his product to various traders in the Gallup area eventually expanding to other areas of the southwest. Each summer from 1960 to about 1983 he worked at Mesa Verde National Park Colorado to demonstrate Navajo Silversmithing for thousands of visitors from all over. He passed away in 1999.

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Wow, that is really great to see this biographical information about your family. Thanks so much for posting!

I recently purchased this beautiful Willie Yazzie bracelet…I love it! Hoping someone can tell me more about it, aprox. age, etc…thanks to all; most thanks to the Yazzie family for the beautiful craftsmanship and sharing with us all.

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Yes, nice bracelet, looking forward to the more knowledgeable replies!

I was doing some research on my mother’s NA jewelry when I ran across these posts about Willie Yazzie Navajo overlay work. I have an almost exactly 40 year old piece of his work, a belt buckle purchased in 1973 from Robert Winfield shortly after he opened his trading post on Rt 602 south of Gallup, NM. The story of how I came to own it might be of interest.

Upon being discharged from the USAF on the West Coast in 1973, I set out with a full set of camping gear and headed back East by following I-40 East. The plan was to make one or two day camping excursions in Arizona and New Mexico along the way for the purpose of visiting old friends and reconnecting with some of the stomping grounds of my youth. Psychologically, I badly needed to reconnect with the earth and people of the Southwest where I had spent every summer from the time I was 12 until I was 18.

During my youth I had purchased a number of pieces of Navajo, Zuni and Hopi silverwork, either from trading posts or directly from the artists, and had given them all away as gifts to family and friends back in Indiana. So I knew a little something about Native American artwork. Part of my reconnection to my Southwest roots was stopping in to shop for Native American artwork at the various trading posts I knew about along the way.

I heard about the amazing new Winfield trading post south of Gallup on the road to the Zuni reservation while visiting an old Navajo friend of mine up in Window Rock, Johnny Henio, who had arranged with his clan elders for me to set up camp for a couple of days on their reservation grazing grounds south of Window Rock.

When Johnny heard that my next excursion off I-40 was going to be to visit the Zuni Reservation, he urged me to stop by the Winfield Trading Co. post on the way rather than spend too much time shopping in Gallup. He said I needed to see what they had at the Winfield post before I bought any Native arts because all the Gallup trading had gotten to be too commercial or just junk pawn stuff. He was real intense about it, so I resolved to hold off buying anything until I had been to Winfields.

Boy was Johnny right! What an amazing collection they had. I think I spent two hours there trying to make up my mind about which amazing piece to buy! It was all exquisite stuff and the prices were outstanding. In the end, I was captivated by the idea of a Navajo doing Hopi overlay work and the stories that Robert Winfield told of how he came to be doing it.

I wish I could remember all of what Robert told me, but I think Willie Yazzie, Jr’s contribution here covers the essentials, so I will not try to tax my 65 year old brain to give any sort of account of that part of the experience.

At any rate, I purchased two Willie Yazzie pieces, a pendant for my mother and a belt buckle for my own use. Cost $27 for the pendant and $48 for the belt buckle. I have worn that belt buckle almost every day for the last 40 years. That, I believe is a testament to not only the beauty of his work, but the astounding endurance of that beauty.

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Willie Yazzie Thunderbird overlay Belt Buckle, Circa 1973

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