Stet­son Honyumptewa

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When Stet­son Honyumptewa was a boy, he would watch his father, un­cles and brother-in-law carv­ing katsina dolls. “They didn’t carve in pub­lic,” he ex­plains. “I guess we weren’t sup­posed to know that they made them we were kids. But still, I couldn’t wait to be ini­ti­ated and start carv­ing.”

Once he was brought into the fold at around 11 or 12, learn­ing to carve was a slow process. “My brother-in-law was re­ally good at it, and I would watch him and tell my­self, ‘I’m go­ing to get that good,’” Honyumptewa says. “It took a long time to hone my skills. Ev­ery time I would make a doll, I would look at it and think, ‘This is good, but I can make it bet­ter.’ It was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion.”

Now a vet­eran carver, Honyumptewa tries not to worry too much about in­spi­ra­tion. “I don’t plan much,” he says. “I just let it hap­pen.” The carv­ing process can be very in­volved— time to com­plete a project varies de­pend­ing on the size, the amount of de­tail, and the move­ment of the piece. A katsina doll 15 inches tall might cre­ate a month to com­plete.

This year, Honyumptewa is pre­par­ing at least four katsina dolls to bring to In­dian Mar­ket. As the event draws closer, he finds him­self work­ing day and night. A few years ago, he found him­self work­ing four days straight with­out sleep. “Some­times I pro­cras­ti­nate,” he ac­knowl­edges, “but that’s part of the fun!”

Ul­ti­mately, Honyumptewa doesn’t view carv­ing as his job, say­ing, “It’s my con­tri­bu­tion to help­ing peo­ple en­joy beauty.”

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