Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kachina Repair, Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning and maintenance of your Kachina doll:
Use an artist paintbrush to brush away any dust that has accumulated, this is the only way to actually clean your doll. 

Do Not use any form of liquid or even a damp cloth as this will melt the kaolin white clay ‘duma’ base. For instance: A woman came in with 2 dolls that her housekeeper had ‘cleaned’ with Windex, the result was a catastrophe, they looked like a clown after he’d been sprayed with a garden hose or just plain bad mascara after you’d been crying all day.

As for repairs to a doll that has been dropped or purchased with missing parts, go to a professional. I have been repairing Kachinas and wood carvings since 1980. I’ve gone so far as to travel to the Hopi mesas and ask permission to repair certain items and have been granted access to gathering materials for the repairs.

Bad glue (such as Gorilla Glue) leads to more complications down the road, such as staining and misalignment of the pieces. 

Lost pieces can be replaced. Feathers can also be replaced, but if you start to see tell tale signs of feather damage place your doll in direct sunlight for a few days, turning him in all 4 directions each day, this should kill most feather mites. If you can place the doll into a sealed plastic bag this will speed the process of killing the mites.

Often times a broken foot is a good indicator of age and of your doll being the real deal. Feet are the first part of a doll to break when played with, usually the toe tip winds up lost, this too can be replaced.

I’m not big on attaching dolls to bases of any sort, I prefer a kachina to be hung on a wall usually over a window or doorway. Try to resist the ‘southwest’ style of hanging them over the fireplace or placing them onto a fireplace mantel, the heat and smoke will eventually do irreparable damage.

I have repaired Kachinas and Santos for some of the Best Collectors and Museums. People have been finding me by word of mouth, I am careful and patient. Removing excessive old glue repairs is just one of the things I do. Gathering the correct materials is also a time consuming aspect of the repair work.

The doll in the photo here had been colored with crayons by an ambitious child. It took me 4 days to clean it all off and repair any damage to the original paint. I was told that the tableta was made from recycled fruit crate wood, this had been cracked and repaired with traditional butchers cotton string. This particular doll was sold rather quickly, a Hemis doll is one of the most beautiful and desirable of Hopi carvings. I took it off the wall and handed it to a couple that were interested in it. The gentleman would not hand it back to me, he was delighted, telling me this is the best doll he'd seen on his trip and that he had to have it. This wasn't just about making the customer happy, I was happy that this really nice man purchased this great jewel of a kachina, one that took my breath away!

My repairs average $100. per repair. I will get back to you quickly with an estimate if your doll is something I choose to restore for you. IF it is not, I  may or may not get back to you. I do not know of any restoration people who I would trust to do work for myself, which means that I can not recommend someone else.
My turnaround on restoration is 8-10 WEEKS, meaning patience. 
You will need to ship or deliver your doll to me, and you will need to pay for return shipping. I ONLY use USPS, (UPS has been careless with packages). I require payment up front for repairs.

Please Note: 
If you NEED a doll repaired, the first thing to do is: 
Otherwise, you have wasted my time and yours.
I have a tendency to fall behind with repairs, they seem to all turn up at once. 
I am now ONLY repairing Older than 1960's Hopi Kachina Dolls. 
I will not be repairing any sort of Contemporary or Navajo Dolls.
 Absolutely None.
What I do is Time Consuming and needs to be done with my head into it. 
I have a standardized price list which I use for reference on all repair estimates. 
Chances are strong that I will turn down most repairs. 
I can no longer do everything that I once could do.
Thank You for understanding.

IF You choose to 'do it yourself' ask for my complete Kachina Repair Kit Instructions the fee for this is $75.

For repair service please contact us at:
Two Graces, PO Box 1587, Ranchos de Taos, NM 87557
We are located in the historic district of Taos at 105 Barela Lane

Shopping at Two Graces Vol. 7: Kachina, Katsina, Katcinas

Why collect Kachinas?
We are primarily talking about Hopi Kachina Doll Carvings, also referred to as Tihu. Sometimes the spelling varies Katsina, Katchina, Katcina, these terms are interchangeable.
Anyone who collects something becomes passionate about their collection, sometimes ravenously obsessive about it. Some will protect sources: the carvers they may come to know, the stores where they find the best dolls, the dealers and websites that offer dolls for sale new or old. I’ve seen collections of over 500 dolls on a single household wall.
The ultimate collector must have been Barry Goldwater. His kachinas make up the bulk of the spectacular collection at the Phoenix Heard Museum. Artists Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Horst Antes, Georgia O’Keeffe, R.C. Gorman, Andy Warhol, and so many more all collected and were often inspired to paint their own versions of Kachinas. President John F. Kennedy was gifted a Long Beard Kachina back in the early 60’s, he gave it to his daughter Caroline, that doll is now in the Kennedy Presidential Library.

Above and below 4 oversized Kachina Cottonwood root carvings.

The local Taos author Frank Waters would say of his collection, which still to this day hangs on his bedroom wall, ‘they tend to be alive, at night they seem to move about’. A collection begins when you suddenly find yourself with more than 3 of something, you don’t need to go overboard and fill your house with them. One doll hanging on your wall or standing in a place of honor will bring blessings to you, your home and those who visit your home.

This set of 3 Kachinas and prayer altar are available at SOLD. 2 Mudheads, 1 Hillilli (the Hillilli is still available), with the wall hanger shelf, vintage ca. 1950's extremely rare. I was told feathers and dance wands would also be kept on this shelf. Below are close ups of the 2 Koyemsi.

The carver from Second Mesa that lived across the street has passed away, but thankfully we now know his name. We have recently purchased 2 dolls with his name written on the underskirt!!! Here the one to the far left is available Sold, and when you scroll down you'll see a Morning singer doll standing behind the Frankoma mud head mug that is also available by Rae Honwytewa SOLD

Hakto tied to an ear of Hopi corn ca. 1980's sold

This doll was given out by a bank in Arizona to customers after they deposited a certain amount of funds into their savings account. He was mounted onto a base, which is long gone, the glue on the bottom of his feet remains. ca. 1950's by Robert Quotsquya sold

Badger sold Mudhead sold & Hummingbird (Sold)

Values keep going up, and older dolls have gotten harder to find, (or find at a reasonable price point). As with anything this desirable there’s a lot of competition out there for collectors. Whether you collect just one particular type of kachina such as Koyemsi/Mudheads or Longbeards/Hillilli, they all make quite a colorful display.

Hopi Kokopelli Maiden (sold), Maiden by Abbot S. signed as such on back of shawl similar to the JFK doll, Badger (sold)

Badger, Qoqole (the Hopi 'Santa Claus' close up below) contemporary Old Style Doll by J. Quamahongnewa, ca. 1950 Ogre (Sold)

A selection now available hanging over the window at Two Graces Plaza Gallery.

The Old & the silly fun made by a woman in Taos.

Alsaka a diety carving like Masau perfectly fine to own but RARELY carved, from the R.C. Gorman collection  (there is a Fewkes plate of this doll, which probably inspired the carver)

Tuma-Uyi Contemporary Route 66 doll by Gallegos SOLD, with crocheted doll by a woman from Farmington that made loads of these for the local Taos toy store Tiovivo

Then there are the doll carvings made by other Pueblo people. Zuni carvings are some of the best (in the store here they always sell rather quickly, recently I had one for all of 3 hours!), Acoma & Laguna carvings are the simplest and to some collectors extremely desirable but really not for everyone, basically they look like a short log with a stylized face, Jemez dolls tend to be confused with ‘Boy Scout’ carvings, those from Isleta are not common but do exist. San Juan carvings, which I carry are specific to the various Northern Pueblo Dances. As a rule I do not carry Navajo Kachinas, which I refer to as PowWow Dancer Dolls. These may look great on a coffee table featured in a photo essay for Architectural Digest or some other home interiors magazine, but they are some of the worst craftsmanship of curios in the marketplace today. Navajo carvers did make traditional Route 66 Yei Dolls, and there are some amazing Navajo traditional carvings out there. It’s my personal opinion that PowWow Dancer Dolls are not your best option. All of the Pueblos in New Mexico & Arizona have their own unique carvings, some do not offer them as crafts for sale and strictly forbid the sale of wooden deity carvings. When visiting a Pueblo ask for dolls or crafts—never ask for ‘Kachinas’.

San Juan dolls by Trujillo

San Juan Buffalo Dancer & Koshare below by Maestas ca. 1980's

Old navajo Yei Route 66 carving.

Taos Pueblo Koshare Clown Mask of micaceous clay 

Ottelie Loloma Longbeard Kachina Pot with wicker handle

San Ildefonso or Isleta Kachina painting on heavy board of the Dorothy Dunn School 

For the truly obsessed there is the realm of Kachina Kitsch, such as Tablecloths, Glassware, Tableware, Liquor Bottles, Banks, Salt & Pepper Shakers. You may also find yourself collecting Kachina motif Pueblo Pottery, Navajo Weavings, Dorothy Dunn School Paintings, Fewkes Prints or Native American Jewelry. Actual dance items come onto the marketplace occasionally Kilts, Leggings, Arm Bands, & the most common item available which are the Gourd Rattles. Please stay away from Kachina Masks and Turtle Shell Rattles, both run into a grey area for collectors.

Views of the shelves of Kachinas & Kachina Kitsch, yes, you are seeing 2 different make it yourself Kachina Kits!

1 Frankoma Mug available, sold in the Harvey House that was located in Albuquerque where today there is the airport 

Tumblers with Salt & Pepper Shakers with an amazing metal name tag for a Kachina Boat!

Arizona Tablecloth & Hopi Sunface small hooked area rug.

If you are looking for something specific, or would like a detailed photo of some of the items you see in these pictures please call or email us, we’d be happy to assist you.
575-758-4639 or 575-758-4101
email to:

Bull roarer, dance wand pairs, Kachina ceramics, a wooden bank, lots of kitschy goodies.

There are 2 rattles here, and a pair of dance wands, the terra cotta rattle is the best I've ever seen, it has indian heads scribed into it all around, I believe this to be Maricopa, although I do not know with absolute certainty 

I had 2 sets of these 'dead stock' in the box sets of 6 Kachina tumblers per set of 6, the Kachina Antelope dancer ceramic tray with raised base is a treasure 

A boy and his dolls...
Thank you for your interest, R