IACA Consumer Tips
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
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.
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
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.