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Collecting American Indian Art

American Indian art, in all forms, has never been more alive and dynamic. It continues to be one of the most gratifying and exciting forms to collect. American Indian art combines age-old tradition, innovation and talent. It results in wide varieties of art for all levels of collecting, irrespective of whether you are beginning with a first-time purchase or have been collecting for a number of years. Whichever you do, it is gratifying to know that it helps to continue of the expression and livelihood of American Indian artisans and the preservation of this country's only indigenous art.

These products, many influenced by centuries of history, combine an intrinsic spirit with timeless appeal. Whether it is basketry, in which artists use the techniques and materials their ancestors did thousands of years ago, or silversmithing, which has evolved more recently into classic as well as contemporary wearable art, there is always a place for the beauty that human hands can produce.

The interest in and appreciation of the artistry of American Indians has, unfortunately resulted in misrepresentations and imports in the marketplace. The popularity has also brought in merchandise that is legitimately represented as "American Indian Inspired". This should not be confused with authentic handmade American Indian arts and crafts. It is important to understand that when you purchase the genuine product, you help to preserve the integrity and commitment of today's artists.

Tips for Collecting

Read about crafts areas in which you are interested. Ask IACA members to recommend books or publications. Many also offer educational brochures on different types of crafts.

Purchase from reputable established dealers including IACA members.

Avoid stores with "perpetual" sales or unethical discounting. Prices are often inflated and then marked down.

Talk to people you are purchasing from. IACA artists and dealers are great sources of information and many offer learning opportunities through demonstrations and exhibits. the following questions when purchasing someting that appeals to you

Materials: Of what is item made? If there are stone settings, are they natural, stabilized, reconstituted or man-made?

Technique: Was the piece completely handmade, or was it made with manufactured components or processes? For example, if pottery, is it hand coiled, wheel thrown or poured greenware? Is it fired outdoors or in a kiln?

Artisan: What is his/her name? What is the tribal affiliation? If the item is market only as "Zuni" or "Navajo" jewelry, be sure is made by an individual who is a member or certified Indian artisan of the Zuni Pueblo or Navajo Nation. Is there any additional information on the artist's career, awards, etc. which can be included with the purchase?

Ask to be given a written description or certificate of authenticity with your purchase

Always keep written records and receipts together for your history/documentation file.

Today there is a great variety of work being done by American Indian artisans who use different techniques and materials to create products suitable for all levels of collecting. Since these differences will often be reflected in the price, it is important to be informed about the item you are purchasing. Buy what you like. Your personal taste and budget will guide you to a selection which will be satisfying to you. For those who choose to invest in the grace and beauty of Indian art, collecting will continue to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Enjoy a short video by Cherokee Artist, Ron Mitchell who gives tips to collectors.

IACA Collector's Information Library
An Educational Project by
Indian Arts and Crafts Association Education Fund

Quantities of these Informational Brochures Are Available to IACA Members in the Members Area of the Website.

Collecting American Indian Art Collecting American Indian Jewelry
Collecting American Indian Fetishes Collecting Navajo Weaving
Collecting Pueblo Pottery Collecting  American Indian Baskets
Collecting Kachina Carvings Collecting American Indian Beadwork
Indian Arts & Crafts Association
4010 Carlisle Blvd NE, Suite C
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87107
Phone: 505.265.9149, fax: 505.265.8251, info@iaca.com
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