Street fashion, cartoon-like animal characters, and the visual qualities of the Navajo language fuse with neon candy colors, moccasin leather, and silver chunky jewelry to create David Sloan's unique and infectious aesthetic. Sloan began making jewelry about 5 years ago, and began transferring his two-dimensional paintings into wearable silkscreen art around 3 years ago.
The Todichiinii Rudeboy was one of Beyond Buckskin's first Boutique artists, and his Diné Bizaad Bandanas have been a top-seller since they launched. We caught up with David to learn more about the man behind the images. Scroll down to read more.
BB: David! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about your designs and artwork. I always like to ask our artists about their process. What all goes into the creation of your wearable art?
DS: Silkscreening can take a lot of time designing the layout. Usually, I start with a bunch of doodles and lay them out into a shirt or bandana shape, then redraw everything with crisp lines all onto one sheet of paper or transparency. I hand-make all of my jewelry, which usually starts with a sheet of sterling silver or copper that I can cut into designs. Then other overlaid pieces and bezels can be added on by soldering them. A lot of polishing goes into making a piece of jewelry ready for sale. I've also been learning Adobe Illustrator to use for my art. From making car air fresheners on matte board, or Christmas ornaments on leather, to incorporating laser-cut leather in jewelry pieces, I'm just getting into finding ways to use this technology. Its really exciting!
BB: Technology can definitely be a great asset to artists and fashion designers. What parts of design do you find challenging?
DS: I have so many "half way done" paintings that I could call too challenging. In the realm of silkscreening, it once took me two years to go from conception to final product. It was a 3-color silkscreen for a t-shirt design, which I had never done before. I had to draw each color on a different layer of transparency yet keep them lined up. So once an area of the image is drawn on, you can't change it to another color unless you redraw the whole thing. It has to be clean and requires the kind of decision making that I can often avoid in painting with oils and acrylics on canvas.
BB: What are your goals as an artist?
DS: My main goal as an artist was to make a living selling paintings, but that was really hard. I could paint 10 hours a day but I had no control over whether or not it was going to sell. I wanted to make enough money to go back to school for a science or something. But in the process I found more art techniques including the jewelry making and silkscreening.
I've thought about maybe going for a degree in teaching art, but I don't like the idea of having to commit to a full-time job that would make it hard for me to keep up with my own artwork. For now, my focus is on making things and being patient and wait for the right signs to present themselves as to which direction I'm supposed to be going. I stay busy, either silkscreening, jewelry making, or printmaking as well as taking classes at the Poeh Cultural Art Center and the Santa Fe Community College. There's always a lot to do, and with a few gigs teaching silkscreening and art here and there, I manage to be able to continue doing what I do.
BB: Now that you're in the fashion world, designing jewelry and streetwear, tell us what you think about Native fashion?
DS: Native fashion has come around many times. For me, I see it as a representation of really important cultural values, not just some fad. I'm really amazed at anybody who can sew. It's so essential to life yet few people are capable of making their own clothes especially artistic ones who can convey a style and cultural influences! It's radical! The Indigenous creators are expressing things that tell who we are and where we come from. When I create designs, my inspiration is my family of my mom, dad, sister, shi cheii, shi masanai, aunts, uncles and cousins! I also find inspiration from the natural world and all its species.
I grew up in Santa Fe so I know the weird cliche of the non-Native person who becomes "another victim of the Santa Fe style". It's cool to see East Coast white kids or skate boarders repping Indian style - maybe in t-shirts with cool Native designs on them - but I wonder if they know some of the significance of the designs. If somebody wears turquoise, I hope they appreciate the work of the artist, the natural creation of the color, and the time that went into getting that stone to the point that it could be worn as a piece of jewelry. Turquoise is sacred, not just a fashion trend. For Diné and many tribes, turquoise is connected to our creation stories and religion. It represents homeland, ancestors, and the existence of life in all forms of beauty and harmony that we are blessed to have on earth.
BB: What else are you passionate about?
DS: I'm passionate about the arts, creating, supporting others making it, and getting to see art. I'm also big into learning about the environment and knowing about ecology. It's really messed up that we have reached a point of Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere where we will never have less than 350 parts per million. A number which hasn't been seen since the extinction of dinosaurs. I also love to listen to music mostly hip-hop, I love playing sports: basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, frisbee golf, bicycling, skiing, and whatever else I can try.
BB: I love asking our artists to tell us something about their tribe - What is something that a lot of people don't know, but should know, about the your community?
DS: Something that I just barely learned about from some family friends that were visiting from the Navajo reservation in Arizona up by Utah is that there are a bunch of oil wells that had contracts that were made up some 80 years ago that allowed oil companies to pay the United States a fraction of what the oil is worth and the Navajos get something like 2 cents for a barrel of oil! The oil companies are saying that the contracts can't be renegotiated and their big lobbying has kept it from being renegotiated or found to be illegal. It's going to take substantial movement of dedicated people to expose yet again the injustices that the Diné tribe has faced in dealing with the country of the United States.
Click here to view David's cool collection on Beyond Buckskin.