I am from a place between Gallup, New Mexico and Window Rock, Arizona called Sagebrush, New Mexico. I was born in Fort Defiance, Arizona. My mom’s maiden name is Elouise Begay and my uncle is Leo Begay. Both, as far as I can remember, always made jewelry. My uncle, Leo Begay was famous for his jewelry in several shops and Trading Posts throughout the four corners.
The person I admired most was my uncle, Leo. Everything that I know to this day about life came from him, including silversmithing. He took the family role of father in my eyes. I learned to make jewelry by helping my mom and uncle as a young kid “buffing”, then I graduated to filling, cutting out pieces of leaves, ect on Concho items. Around the age of 10, I started making small pieces of jewelry like sewing thimbles, earrings, and key rings on my own.
I wanted to go into the military when I graduated from high school, I took 3 ½ years of ROTC preparing for it. I’ve worked in a lot of places, doing various jobs such as landscaping, construction, warehouse work. I was a “Jack of all Trades”, but I’ve always worked as a silversmith between jobs to earn extra cash. Having 6 children, ranging in ages from 32 to 20, money can be tight and making jewelry has always been a way to make extra for our family. I never knew that my silversmithing trade was a skill some employers admired. I always thought it was a way to make extra money. I grew up making bolos, key rings, pillboxes, earrings, etc for my uncle and mother and I never really considered widening my products or improving my skills until recently. I’ve worked as a Silversmith is many areas, such as Albuquerque, Socorro, Phoenix, Gallup, and the list goes on.
I would like people to remember me as a good and helpful person. My goal in life is to do the best work I can, in everything that I do, whether that is making jewelry, or home projects.
I am in the process of building a house in Monument Valley right now. I have a plot of land with beautiful views and lots of space to explore the outdoors. If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Athens, Greece. I am intrigued with the stories of the Gladiators and Gods of Mythology. In my spare time, I enjoy taking a drive, cycling, site seeing, a good green chili cheeseburger, a frosty cold mug of Bud, and a nice fresh cup of hot coffee. I have 2 grandkids that I love spending time with when I can.
Here is a photo of Jeffery Chee (left) standing next to John Hartman of Durango Silver Co (right).