When Magdalena Schools reopened its art department two years ago, teacher Kim Henkel arrived to lead the program to teach K-12 students different styles of artistic expression.
In addition to painting, sculpture and related art forms, Henkel, an accomplished artist in her own right, introduced jewelry art to the burgeoning program.
She said one particular student, Daniel Apachito, showed such promise in jewelry making last semester, she took steps to enroll him in a summer jewelry-making session at the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu. Ghost Ranch was the studio and home of Georgia O’Keefe, and now offers more than 150 retreats and workshops.
“He got into jewelry in my art class and really enjoyed it,” Henkel said. “So this summer I was able to offer one of the jewelry classes, a beginner silver and stone workshop in the Southwest, at Ghost Ranch.”
Henkel accompanied Apachito last July, not only as an escort, but also to brush up on her own skills.
“Not only did I go to class with him as a chaperone, but I stayed an extra week,” she said. “I took a lot of classes there.”
Apachito said he grew up around arts and crafts in his Alamo home.
“I was interested in my grandfather. He has been a silversmith for a long time, he said. “I always wanted to learn from him, but I never asked him. But now we have a jewelry class at school, so that’s where I learned the basics.”
He said he started doing it on his own about a year ago, making bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings and shell belts.
“I mostly use silver and turquoise, but whenever I get special orders I use other stones,” Apachito said. “Usually I make things to order. If they want something in yellow brass and they want it to be turquoise, I will ask what width they want the ring to be and the size of the ring. Right now I have an order for a yellow brass inlaid ring. They saw one of my rings that I had made beforehand and wanted one… so I already knew what they wanted.”
Working with silver, brass and copper, he said his grandfather, Clark Baca, was a big influence and that studying in Abiquiu gave him more confidence in his skills.
“My grandfather likes what I do. Sometimes he’ll say it’s a good job and tell me about his experience with the materials,” Apachito said. “My grandparents are more accepting of my ability to do this, so they also bought me my own equipment. So I have my own workbench to work at home.”
He said he learned some things from the instructors at the Ghost Ranch class that he didn’t.
“It was a good working atmosphere. All the people were kind,” he said. “I learned some tips, some things I didn’t know. I learned about channel inlay where you shape the stone instead of crushing it. It was a bracelet, one of my first creations. Channel inlay on a silver bracelet with malachite. This was my first silver inlay. Lately I’ve been working more with silver.”
Apachito is already selling his works.
“I actually sell my stuff at my grandparents’ store in Magdalen, C&S Morningstar, on the corner of Highway 60 and Ash Street,” he said. “My grandmother, Shirley Baca, does traditional Navajo weaving. She makes rugs, blankets and all that. Most of my family are artists.”
Henkel said the trip to Ghost Ranch inspired the 16-year-old artist.
“Daniel loved it as a student and he is conscientious. He is at his best,” she said. “This is a student I trusted to be responsible and he was serious about what he was doing. I just thought it was a good opportunity to give him a chance to immerse himself in the studio with all its advantages. To work together with all other students and teachers.”
When he’s not working with turquoise, malachite and non-ferrous metals, Apachito stands on the Stars’ offensive line during football games.