Eveli Sabatie on Hopi Inlay and Egyptian Jewelry

In 2006, writing for Metalsmith magazine, I had the opportunity to review the Charles Loloma jewelry show that revealed not only Loloma’s compelling jewelry -but  some of the astonishing works by the only two apprentices the master claimed: the Moroccan-raised Evelie Sabatie, and his niece, Verma Nequatewa. These inlay earrings by Sabatie I encountered two weeks ago in Santa Fe ($4800; Shiprock Santa Fe.)

Eveli Sabatie worked and lived with Loloma on Hopi from 1968 to 1972. She explained in a (2006) telephone interview from her home in Tucson, where she teaches Sanskrit and yoga, how she got there.

“One night (in San Francisco) someone took me to the Fillmore and some people were gathered talking about a young Navajo resisting the draft. I decided to go to the trial at Federal Building. The elevator came, and when the door opened, it was filled with representatives of all the southwestern tribes. Everybody was all dressed up. My mouth just dropped. I was the only non-Indian there. I spent a whole day with two Hopis I met at the trial, and they invited me to come to Hopi for the Bean Dance.”

She first met Loloma at the New Oraibi Laundromat. “You can see his eyes scintillate,” she said, using the present tense. “His curiosity is very big and of course, if it’s a lady, his curiosity is even bigger.

“He sat down beside me at the Laundromat and immediately he started asking me all these questions, where I came from and what I had done and what I was doing here. He asked me to come to his shop and see his work. And he said, would you like to learn to make jewelry? And I said of course. The whole operation at the time was just a little shop, with a single backroom. His father’s old house was up on the hill where the fields were, but Charles hadn’t built his own house yet.”

What emerged aesthetically for Loloma during his time with Sabatie was a recognition of the confluence of stylizations that united mosaic traditions. Mark Bahti explained that Loloma’s inlay began with pairings of turquoise and ironwood—a local wood, harder than mesquite, that grows as a tree in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Tom Bahti had introduced Loloma to ironwood boxes jeweler Frank Patania, Jr., was making. Later, Bahti would show him ironwood sculptures made by Xeri Indians in Mexico.

At roughly the same time, Sabatie remembers, Loloma received a book about Egyptian jewelry that proved wildly important.

“His inlay reference was the old Hopi earrings that katsinas wear,” Sabatie said. These earrings inlaid mosaic of turquoise with tiny pieces of abalone in the center, on square pieces of cottonwood, and date to Mesa Verde (1100 A.D.)

Sabatie said, “ The only inlay experience I had had was with mosaic in turquoise blues, because that’s the color of Islam. But the Egyptians used the stones in slits or in squares next to each other. I believe that’s where it all started for Charles.”


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