Navajo Mud Toys
Mamie Deschellie (Deschillie) & Elsie Benally
Navajo Folk Art Toys, specifically unfired clay animal figures painted with tempera paint were made by Mamie Deschellie (of Fruitland near Farmington, NM) and Elsie Benally (of Sweetwater, AZ), (Rose Herbert is another mud toy artist), starting around 1983.
Large Tiger with Turquoise Eyes $50. Mamie Deschellie
Lion with beaded forehead and Mane $50. Mamie Deschellie
Santa Riding Chicken $50. (signed MD) Mamie Deschellie
Santa Riding Cow (signed MD) Mamie Deschellie
(Santa Riding a Cow has been acquired)
Gray Panther Tiger $50. (signed MD) Mamie Deschellie
Small Tiger $50. (signed MD) Mamie Deschellie
Elephant $50. (signed MD) Mamie Deschellie
Cowboy on Horseback $50. Mamie Deschellie
Zebra $50. Mamie Deschellie
Big Shabby Lion w Teeth Mamie Deschellie
(The Shabby Lion has been acquired)
Alligator $50. Mamie Deschellie
White Buffalo $35. Elsie Benally
Santa Riding Alligator $50. Elsie Benally
Donkey Pack Animal $50. Elsie Benally
Sheep, Elsie Benally (the sheep has been acquired, thank you)
Sandstone Pickup Truck w 2 Pigs $30.
Sandstone Spotted Horse $20.
Cardboard & Velvet Navajo Woman Riding Horse $150. Mamie Deschellie
Mud Toy availability is quite limited, the mud toys are quite fragile and susceptible to damage, perhaps this makes them rare and more and more difficult to come by. Mud Toys are dried in the sun, they are not fired to harden the clay, then painted with flat bright tempera paints.
Inspiration for these artists comes from Children’s Books, Circus Animals and animals on the Navajo Reservation. Occasionally Mamie would make up a magical animal out of her imagination. The Navajo People are believed to have used the toys as early as 1880. Mud Toys have similar characteristics to clay animal fetish figures used by the people of nearby Pueblos in Arizona and New Mexico, often they were left at shrine sites, later to wear away in the wind and elements where they would melt back into Mother Earth.
Deschellie is also known for her Cardboard Animal Figures she called ‘Cutouts’ of the same topics as her mud toys. We have one listed here of a Navajo Woman on Horseback.
For me these figures are reminiscent of the figures of wire and found objects by Alexander Calder for his “Calder’s Circus” in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Every bit as whimsical and filled with wonder, in particular the circus animals, these are now desirable to collectors everywhere.
In 1990 I came upon the cutout cardboard figures created by Mamie Deschellie in a Trading Post shop in Aztec, NM (near Farmington), there I purchased as many cutouts as they had giving them as gifts for friends who still cherish them (as I do) to this day.
Works by both Deschellie and Benally are in the permanent collections of major American Museums.
True Folk Art is rarely signed, pressure in the market place has forced many artists to include their signature. When looking at these figures you begin to notice significant differences between the two women artists. Folk Art styles are unique to the individual artists who make them.
Both Deschellie and Benally are listed in the book “Navajo Folk Art; the People Speak”, by Chuck and Jan Rosenak.
Mud Toy Sizes range from 2.5” - 6’ in length
Calling us with your order request and payment information is the best and fastest way to receive a response of what is available.
575-770-5580 (between 10-5 Mountain Time)
or email your request to
We will get back to you asap and ask that you then call with shipping and payment information.
We ship throughout the United States.
A side note: from time to time I do restoration on Mud Toys, if you have a cherished figure please reach out about my restoration service. It's best to send an email that includes a photo of the damage or what might be missing such as a leg or an ear.