In 2013 Diane won “Best in Accessories” in the craftwear exhibition during 79th Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair for a belt she created out of English bridle leather and a vintage hoof pick. This win got her thinking about learning to make her own decorative metal adornments, to put her own one-of-a-kind spin on her leatherwork. She dreamed of learning metalsmithing, of creating her own style of blended leather- and metalwork, and of setting her work further apart from other leather artisans.
One night Diane stumbled upon the Facebook group “The House of Stamps” and joined, intrigued by the images of beautiful handmade stamped jewelry. While immersing herself in the group, she learned it was run by Lyndon Tsosie, a Navajo artist with nearly 30 years of experience in jewelry-making. Because of the time difference, she would stay up late watching their live videos, in which Tsosie would make jewelry, explain how to use the metal stamps, give tips on metalsmithing and the tools required, then offer the stamps used for sale. She began to buy these Navajo-made stamps a few at a time, not knowing what she would do with them but happy to support fellow artisans and promising herself one day she would learn the craft.
One summer day in 2018 Diane’s sister asked her what she was doing, up all night on Facebook, and she excitedly told her all about The House of Stamps, mentioning how incredible it would be to go to one of their retreats, though the cost was out of her reach at the time.
In November 2018, during the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen NH Open Doors event, a statewide tour of open studios, metalsmith Barbara Smith McLaughlin advertised that she was starting metalsmithing classes in her at-home studio. Realizing Barbara was located only 6 miles from her own house, and after receiving a gift certificate from a dear friend, Diane signed up for Barbara’s first metalsmithing course.
On Christmas Day 2018, Diane opened a gift box from her sister and cried in disbelief and gratitude: inside was her registration for The House of Stamp’s Winter Retreat in Gallup, New Mexico. With only nine hours of metalsmithing instruction with Barbara under her belt, she left for New Mexico. She spent five 11-hour days learning the history of stamp-making, metalsmithing and using the stamps, and the history of the Navajo and their artistry. She worked with Lyndon Tsosie to create four sterling silver items and a few copper pieces.
“Diane immersed herself in the world of stamping jewelry,” says Lyndon. “She learned tremendously. Sometimes we don’t know what we carry inside of us until we find the right tool. I think she already had it in her, she just needed the push to get her where she is. She needed the mold to be broken to get her on her path now, in her illustrious career as a leatherist. As you can see with her work, she has taken off 10-fold from what she learned with us. I commend her on her ability to make stamping her own.”
Diane is careful to respect the history and traditions of the Navajo while creating her own style of southwestern-inspired stamped jewelry. “Art is art,” says Lyndon Tsosie. “Appreciate the art, appreciate the culture, and let customers know how much you appreciate our way of life, the Navajo way of life. It’s the love of creating, of design. It’s not copying, or appropriation, it’s admiration and respect.”
Diane continues to learn from both Lyndon and Barbara, whom she considers her most important metalsmithing mentors, and is deeply grateful for their support, and the support of her friends and family who have helped her along the way.