Jewelry with an Ancient Heart: Making Southwestern-Inspired Jewelry with Lexi Erickson

Lexi’s back with the second video in her series of making Southwest-inspired jewelry from designs fueled by her passion for archeology and her beloved Southwest United States. Read on to learn about her process and designing symbolic jewelry that draws on an ancient past.

Looking Into Nature and History as Your Inspiration
By Lexi Erickson

Anyone who knows me well, as well as many of my readers who don’t know me at all, know I love to base my jewelry on my archaeological research of the American Southwest and my studies of the UK. Maybe a series of Celtic/Nordic-inspired pieces will follow, who knows. But wherever this current series leads me, I’m loving designing it and spending creative time in my studio.

make shaman jewelry with Lexi Erickson

As a deeply spiritual person, I love using the shaman figures which have been pecked and carved upon the canyon walls of the Southwest by the Ancient Ones. Though I have practically no Native American ancestry in my DNA, all types of figurative rock art have always pulled at me, not just the figures of my beloved Southwest. In fact, the term “shaman” is not even a Native American term; it originates from the Tungus people in Siberia. However, early anthropologists assigned the word to the spiritual leaders of the Southwest, without actually asking what they called themselves, so we now use the term loosely and sometimes erroneously for any leaders of earth-based religions. Being that humans made the actual petroglyphs, it’s no surprise that the human shaman figure is so often seen in rock art. They created what they knew upon the rock walls. So there is your anthro/archaeology lesson for today.

There is no one particular “style” of shaman figure, as they range from basic stick figures with bird-like characteristics to the more fleshed out figures. Anything you wish to do with a smaller stone or design element on top and a larger one on the bottom can be seen as a shaman figure, at least in my mind.

shaman petroglyph

I suppose one of my absolute favorites is called “The Moab Man,” found on a rock formation in Moab, Utah. That this figure is now on the golf course was a bit disturbing to the purist in me, but it is roped off and somewhat protected, as long as there is not a slice on the swing from the 12th T-box!

shaman petroglyph art

Other images are more ghost-like, such as these images from Horseshoe Canyon, within Barrier Canyon, often called  “The Louvre of the Southwest.” These alien-looking figures haunt me, and I have a large photo of them in my house. The actual figures are life size or larger and inspire so many memories–or maybe it is just my imagination–but I love seeing them each time I hike the canyon. My drawings from my field journals and my thousands, yes THOUSANDS, of photos that I have taken over the years, provide my fertile mind with lots of inspiration. So that is why it is so much fun to work on this series of Southwest-inspired jewelry-making videos and get to share my love of the area and my passion for archaeology with you.

If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the Southwest, or don’t care for the long, hot, arduous, body-punishing hikes into the back country (see what I do for you?), use your own imagination for your own interpretation of shaman figures. For my new Textured Shaman Pendant with Bezel-Set Stone and Overlay Soldering video, I had no particular figure in mind, and knowing that you may have not actually seen a petroglyph, I just used a basic “head” with a spiral (which is a symbol for time or travel that is found in rock art worldwide and is many times associated with the female) and a beautiful stone from a find in Arizona purchased from Mark Lasater at The Clamshell. Using stones from the Southwest, such as this Arizona Opal, turquoise, Sonoran Sunrise, or chrysocola, enhance your Southwestern designs. I used serrated bezel wire, also used in a lot of Native American jewelry, which leans toward a Southwestern feel.

learn metalsmithing and create a shaman pendant with Lexi

This is a very simple design. In the video, I share lots of bezel-making and overlay tips and also use a Fretz hammer which has a great texture, but you have to know now to use the hammer, and it was a tip from Bill himself that made me love, love, love this texture!

I hope you will enjoy this video; it was made with love. More coming within the next month. You can also get the DVD, Special Approaches for Stones: Prong Set Curved Concho and Textured Shaman Pendants, with both my concho bear pendant and this shaman pendant on it. Just the inspiration you will get from the DVD is worth a vacation into my beloved Southwest . . . and a lot less expensive. Collect them all; there are lots of good jewelry-making ideas, tips and inspiration in each one.  I hope you enjoy them and the history they teach. I’ve had an absolute blast making them for you!

Creatively yours,


I love learning about the creative process behind Lexi’s designs, but there’s another brilliant feature to these videos. No matter what design you choose to make, you will have had a complete metalsmithing lesson after watching one of these videos, from tools and materials through basic tasks like sawing and texturing metal, all the way through bezel making, stone setting, soldering on curved or textured surfaces, sweat soldering, hand and machine finishing, and more. Each video is like taking a whole metalsmithing class with Lexi! –Tammy


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