Local Native American fashion blogger Nanibaa Beck is also a jeweler, but up until now her work was limited to duties in her father Victor Beck's studio, where she's been assisting since her early teens. But you will definitely want to get your hands on some of the first items from her locally developed jewelry line, Notabove. The freshly cut collection includes necklaces with words in Native languages on them and earrings designed by artist J. Slim.
Beck is co-founder of the Presence 4.0 Native fashion, creativity, and style blog, which launched about a year ago with a fashion show by Beyond Buckskin Boutique in downtown Phoenix. Beck has been inspired to continue in the fashion field and began her jewelry line in mid-November 2013. Having worked many sides of the business, she went into the project optimistically but with eyes wide open. "I knew making necklaces would be fun," she says. "What can I make that I would want to wear?"
That the words, like "hozho," which indicates the concept of balance in Navajo culture, are cut by hand with a small saw blade is important to Beck. She's close to wrapping up her master's degree in anthropology and says of the hand technique, "because these are Native languages and [they] mean something to each person, I want them to mean something to me, too." She says the perseverance and patience in learning Native languages is similar to the sometimes tedious work that is central to the jewelry-making process. Beck has known Phoenix artist J. Slim for some time. "I'm drawn to creativity," Beck says. "And when I met him it clicked."
"He's always been about negative space... and interesting lines and movement. Some of the designs reference creation stories. His work can reach different and go into other forms... he can work his designs on almost anything," she says. And she thought: Why not try jewelry? After all, she had the raw materials (brass and silver) and the training, and so the two friends began creating earrings to compliment her necklace line.
The two have a good creative dynamic going and are having fun with the earring work, but the designs also have deeper meaning. They are based on Navajo Nation creation stories.
Of the Fourth World Emergence earrings (pictured below), J. Silm says, "The bottom of the earrings of are waves from the flood in the third world that forced the beings of the Third World to emerge to the Fourth. The center is the female reed that transported the beings to the Fourth World... A world of light, hence the sunshine at the top. The Third World was dark. The earring is shaped like a locust, 'cause it was the first being to emerge into the Fourth World, and it was that being who got acceptance from the beings of the Fourth World to approve of the migration of beings from the Third World."
Right now brass pieces range from $25 to $40, and silver items range from $50 to $60 depending on the length of the word on the necklace or the length of the earrings. Beck hopes local retailers like MADE and Frances will have an interest in carrying the line. She is also approaching museum shops here in Arizona.
You can search "#notabovejewelry" on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see photos or visit Beck's Notabove blog to order. Custom options are available, and Beck has been filling holiday gift orders.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.