Budding goldsmith art student

Daniel Apachito and Kim Henkel, second and third from right, pose with their instructors at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu.
Photos courtesy of Kim Henkel

When Magdalena Schools restarted its art department two years ago, instructor Kim Henkel arrived to lead the program, teaching K-12 students in the various styles of artistic expression.

Along with painting, sculpture, and related art forms, Henkel, an accomplished artist in her own right, introduced the art of jewelry to the burgeoning curriculum.

She said one student in particular, Daniel Apachito, showed so much promise in jewelry making in the last term that she took steps to enroll him in a summer jewelry-making session at Ghost. Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu. Ghost Ranch was the studio and home of Georgia O-Keefe, and currently offers over 150 retreats and workshops.

Daniel Apachito working on a bracelet at Magdalena.

“He started making jewelry in my art class and he really liked it,” Henkel said. “So this summer, I was able to offer one of the jewelry courses, the Southwest Silver and Stone Beginners Workshop, at Ghost Ranch.”

Henkel accompanied Apachito last July, not only as a chaperone but also to improve.

“I took the course with him, not only as a chaperone, but I stayed an extra week,” she said. “I took many courses there.”

Apachito said he grew up around arts and crafts back home at Alamo.

“I was interested in my grandfather. He has been a goldsmith for a long time,” he said. “I always wanted to learn from him but never asked him. But now we have a jewelry class here at school, so from there I understood the basics.

He started making it himself about a year ago, he said, producing bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings and concha belts.

“I mostly use silver and turquoise, but whenever I get special orders I use other stones,” Apachito said. “I usually make custom pieces. If they want something that’s yellow brass and they want turquoise in it, I’ll ask them how wide the ring is and what their ring size is. 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 like that…so I already knew what they wanted.

Working in silver, brass and copper, he said his grandfather, Clark Baca, was a major influence and that taking the course at Abiquiu gave him more confidence in his skills.

“My grandfather loves what I do. Sometimes he’ll say, yes, it’s a good job and he’ll tell me about his experiences working 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 from home.

The finished product.

He said that during Ghost Ranch he learned some things from the instructors that he didn’t learn.

“It was a good working environment. All the people were nice,” he said. “I learned a few tricks, things that I didn’t know. I learned about channel inlay where you shape the rock instead of crushing it. It was for a bracelet, one of my first pieces. A channel encrustation on a silver bracelet with malachite. It was my first silver inlay. Lately I’ve been working more with silver.

Apachito is already selling his parts.

“I sell my stuff at my grandparents’ shop in Magdalena, C&S Morningstar, on the corner of Highway 60 and Ash Street,” he said. “My grandmother, Shirley Baca, practices traditional Navajo weaving. She makes rugs and blankets and all that. Most of my family members are artists.

Henkel said the trip to Ghost Ranch was inspirational for the 16-year-old artist.

“Daniel liked it as a student and is conscientious. He’s on top of things,” she said. “He’s a student I trusted as a manager, and he was serious in what he was doing. I just thought it was a good opportunity to give him a chance to immerse himself in a studio with all of its perks. Working alongside all the other students and instructors.

When he’s not at his workbench working with Turquoise, Malachite, and nonferrous metals, you can find Apachito on the Steers’ offensive line during football games.

Kayleen C. Rice