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Faces of CNM: Devin Edison

An up-and-coming Native American jewelry artist, Devin has teamed up with one of Albuquerque’s most forward-thinking businesses to sell his work
Faces of CNM: Devin Edison
A bronze eagle pendant that Devin recently made. He was finished with the design and about to silver plate it.

Jul 18, 2018

Devin Edison thinks with his hands. He needs to touch, make, and shape in order to be focused. That’s why jewelry became his passion. He started in CNM’s Construction program but took a class in the Jewelry program on the side and realized that was his future.

“I would have failed out of a regular university in the first month because that’s not how I learn,” Devin says. “It was great to find CNM, which has helped me move forward the way I need to move forward, and it’s been great to find jewelry, which is clearly my calling.”

Devin, who’s Navajo, specializes in rings and necklaces and most of his work features animals native to America such as wolves, eagles, and buffalo. Those animals connect his work to the Native community and have helped him create a unique and easily recognizable style.

Initially, Devin, 21, had a lot of success creating high-quality art, but the job market was a little harder. He’d been searching for the right job for over a year when his CNM Jewelry instructor Harley McDaniel introduced him to Mathew Shepardson, who runs an e-commerce site, maker space, and manufacturing business that are all focused on Native jewelry and all fall under the name Turquoise Skies.

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Devin working on a piece of jewelry during at class at the CNM FUSE Makerspace.

Originally developed by Mathew as a way to help Native artists market their jewelry, Turquoise Skies became an e-commerce hub for artists after the business’s Facebook page blew up to 250,000 followers. The business started manufacturing Native jewelry, using Native artists, after large companies such as T.J. Maxx found the Facebook page and asked if Turquoise Skies could scale up.

Today, Turquoise Skies still runs a robust e-commerce site where artists can sell their work, but also has 3,000 feet of manufacturing space and has hired people like Devin to make jewelry for the larger contracts. According to Mathew, artists like Devin are guaranteed at least $20 an hour, but the real bonus is the artists also get to use Turquoise’s space and equipment to make their own art, and can then sell their art through the Turquoise Skies website.

“We want artists to be able to make a living, but we also want the artists to spend time on themselves and to develop their own own businesses,” Mathew says.

Harley, Devin’s instructor, says Devin has been successful at the job, and at his own art because he has a laser focus on what he’s doing. While other jewelry artists often like to juggle multiple projects—allowing some to fall through—Devin does one thing and sees it all the way through.

“He definitely has a vision, and that vision guides him the entire way,” Harley says.

Devin isn’t getting rich off his jewelry—at least not yet—but he’s proud that he can do what he loves. He also hopes he can set a small example for other people in his community who might want to pursue their passions.

“Back on the rez there’s lots of poverty—people are homeless, people are struggling—and I wanted to show young people that we can do good work that’s related to our culture and helps us make a good living,” he says.

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Devin works on a wax buffalo that he was eventually going to cast.