Matthew Charley Biography
New Mexico based Diné jeweler Matthew Charley, 26, has been practicing and perfecting his art of metalsmithing for over nine years where he has consistently employed the traditional Diné methods of metalsmithing — handcrafted pieces. Beginning at the age of 18 Matthew has developed a very personal and unique style, a flawless balance in the bounds of time-honored Navajo designs and infinite contemporary textures and shapes. Notorious for his combinations of intricate, extensive and geometric stamp work, massive stones, narrative components, and symbolism, Mr. Charley’s pieces are nothing less of a statement.
Growing up on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Matthew is well versed in the strength and beauty of the Diné history and culture. For inspiration he often looks to and draws upon the powerful and divine story of his people as well as the natural textures often found within a stone’s throw of his home — giving his pieces their most attractive attributes. In the words of Mr. Charley, “Tradition is passed through it, culture is passed through it, the history of our people is tied within the art; our people had style back then, we wanted our outfits to be complimented with nice jewelry; just look back at the old photos and you’ll see the jewelry worn in it’s most purest and earliest form, the jewelry is home to them and seeing that is what inspires me”.
Having a closer look at his pieces it’s easy to see that the creative trenches and thought pools go deeper than the stone- to -metal coordination; every stamp design and precise placement of stones voice a personal narrative woven into every hit of the hammer. His work ethic, style, methods, and actions voice cultural preservation and authenticity. Each piece, whether it be a small ring or a complex squash blossom, is a testament to his devotion to the continuity of the Diné art of metalsmithing.
His pieces have been housed in numerous museums across the country, they have been cited in several magazines and earned multiple ribbons at the 2018 Santa Fe Indian Market Show. His buyers along with his pieces may be found all across the globe.
When asked to speak on his present work, Mr. Charley believes it is ever-evolving stating “There are designs yet to be thought and created, I’m constantly learning. I’m not at my best and I feel I will never be but I’m working toward that by: perfecting my craft, learning new techniques, utilizing new tools and the best materials at my disposal. I’m setting new goals for myself, there’s really no ceiling when it comes to my potential and creativity. I have so much good to put out into the world and I feel like I’m just getting started”.
Looking at the bigger picture Matthew hopes to create a honorable and stirring legacy; a legacy that will one day empower the Diné people with the ability to reclaim the traditional craftsmanship of Navajo jewelry. However, he believes that will be for them to decide, as Matthew noted, “that’s for the people to determine, the next generations, but for me right now it’s just perfecting my craft and allowing the art and my culture to live on through my pieces”.