Lena Boone is the matriarch of the Boone/Weahkee family and, following the recent death of Edna Leki, is the next in a long line of carvers tracing back to Teddy Weahkee. At the present time, Lena's energy is devoted to her children, her grandchildren, her nephews and her nieces, of which there are many. The whole extended family is carving, although the bulk of the pieces produced are still done by Lena.
Lena's fetishes are simple and traditional. Lena is a major force in the movement to continue traditional carving. A large part of her fetishes' beauty and uniqueness comes from the use of many different materials. Because Lena has some of the only water-cooled grinding equipment in Zuni, only she can carve fetishes from glass. The striking colors in slag glass and art glass could be unique additions to your collection.
In addition to table fetishes, Lena produces by far the best fetish jars in Zuni, and some remarkable fetish necklaces. Challis loved them all - and samples of each are available on this page.
Challis also liked to encourage young carvers - thus we have posted a few fetishes by her son, Leland Boone, her daughter, Evalena Boone, and her nephews (Anderson Weahkee's sons), Robert Michael and Marcel Chase Weahkee. We will post more later when we have more time. Challis loved Lena Boone's fetishes - we know you will love them also!
All our fetish jars are done by Lena Boone. All are made from hand-coiled pottery by a member of Lena's family. All have a hole for the fetishes to feed (except the Kiva jars which have no hole), and all have some blue corn flour inside - which tends to migrate as part of the intentional feeding process for the bears mounted on the outside of the jars as is seen in many of our photographs. The main differences among the various jars are in size and shape of the bowl, and in the size and number of fetishes. The six-directional jars are unique, and have an inlaid flying eagle tied to four strands of sinew on the top. No matter which fetish jar you choose, you have an unusual set of fetishes - and the sales price of the jar as a whole is often less than the total of the fetishes alone. Our fetish jars are located at the bottm of this page. Enjoy!
Lena Boone Blog - by Karen Riley
Lena's carving studio is a humble, freestanding structure of concrete, set off to the front of her newly renovated house, and on the day we visited, she was apologetic about the attendant chaos that had been created by the recent construction. "You know, the original house that we lived in here was built in the 1970s and had aluminum wiring, and while we realized that because of it, at some point, we would have to rebuild, which we just have done this past year, we are still not quite finished." Lena's new house is modern and trim, largely unadorned, and inside, the only evidence I could see that might let anybody who didn't already know, guess she was a carver, was some dazzling retro art glass vases sitting in the living room window sill. Lena's use of art glass as a source material for her fetishes is highly creative, and so much of her artistry lies in her masterful intuition in letting the distinctive characters of her materials come alive and express the essence of the animal. As I looked at the vases in her house, trying to imagine at some point if they would get transformed into carvings, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen that style of glassware since visiting my aunt's apartment in the 1970s, when things like scalloped-rim glass candy compotes and art glass vases were popular. Lena, her son Leland and wife Daphne Quam, are the few Zuni carvers who will work with glass, a notoriously difficult material to carve without special equipment. To my eye, art glass has the same whimsical appeal as old handmade glass marbles, with their swirling ribbons of color. What's particularly ingenious about Lena's use of art glass, such a non-traditional material, is that she responds to it so naturally.
In contrast to the tidy newness of the house, her well-used studio is covered in a fine film of grey stone dust, and between the disarray of plastic bins of unformed rock slabs stacked about the floor, hand tools and sundry other items strewn about, Arch and I had a difficult time figuring out a place where we could sit down. Neither of us had ever witnessed the whole carving process before, and Lena had graciously offered to show us how she works. At first, her process seemed a bit haphazard. Her grinding wheel is incredibly well-worn, and as she explained, it has to get periodically "dressed" or squared by her grandson to keep its edges sharp. Miscellaneous wheel belts hung on the wall overhead. She randomly selected a smallish lump of serpentine from the top of one bin by her feet, but from the second she set to start shaping it, holding it at an oblique angle against the wheel, water from a sponge at the base of the wheel showering her neck and chin in a gentle spray, her plan for the stone became apparent: it was going to be a frog. As she adroitly held the slab against the wheel, and turned it over and over again, roughly fashioning its head, legs and haunches, her artistic judgment and the skill of her hands was a joy to watch. Serpentine has been used in the Southwest since prehistoric times and is particularly popular with Zuni carvers because of its ease of availability; the wonderful oblong shape of this frog strikes me as nearly a cast of her palm, and as such is alive with her energy and agility as a carver.
Lena visited Sunshine Studio in August 2006 to bring us a fetish bowl she had been working on. We got to talking about her family's role in the evolution of these unique pieces. Lena's grandfather, Teddy Weahkee, was the first to approach them as artwork, as previous to that time they had only been used in religious societies. He decorated them with antler, but it was Lena's mother, Edna Leki, who first started using fetishes. Photos of the earlier antler bowls were published in Arizona Higways back in the 1960s, when Teddy was actively working. Lena explained that he would purchase old bowls, scrape off the glaze and then decorate them with antler. He also added fire ash to make them look old. Lena's mom, who worked on fetish bowls from 1960s through the 1980s, was the first to add turquoise.