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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org