Steve Wikviya LaRance (Hopi-Assiniboine) and wife Marian Denipah (Navajo-Ohkay Owingeh) are award-winning artists based out of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. They work both as individuals and as collaborators, and their son Cree now creates masterful work in metal, as well.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Steve was raised in the Hopi Village of Moencopi. His grandfather was a religious leader from Hotevilla and was a major influence on his life. Growing up at Hopi he learned to carve katsina dolls, make bows and arrows, and work with silver. Steve tried painting, but found he loved to sculpt in alabaster, marble and limestone as well.
Marian was born in Tucson, Arizona. Her father was Navajo and her mother was from Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo). Eventually she moved to New Mexico where she attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) to study painting, photography, modern dance, and ballet. It was in Santa Fe that Steve and Marian met, started a family, and embarked on a lifelong career in the arts.
The pair work primarily as jewelers now and are regular participants at events like the Santa Fe Indian Market. They show at galleries and museums, as well, and their work is in public and private collections around the world.
Each piece they create has a story to tell. Hopi symbols for sun, rain, corn and many others often adorn their work. On other pieces insects, animals, and petroglyphs might be spotted. Rings, bracelets, and necklaces often include colorful stones — everything from turquoise and coral to amethyst and topaz — on the outside, but the stories and symbols continue on the interior surfaces as well.
The two are well-known for their use of a technique called tufa-casting. Thought to be one of the oldest Native American jewelry making methods, this process involves the use of tufa, a porous, lightweight stone that is made of compressed volcanic ash. Designs are hand-carved in the tufa mold, and molten silver or gold is then poured into the mold to create a piece. Usually a tufa mold can only produce one piece as molten metal will render it unusable.
While the other Denipah-LaRance children have also created amazing jewelry they have also gone on to be successful in their chosen careers. Daughter Nizhoni Denipah is an Otolaryngologist ( Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor, who made Steve and Marian grandparents with the birth of her daughter Shade-Phea. Son, Nakotah LaRance (1989-2020), was a 9-Time Winner of the World Championship of Hoop Dance. He also appeared on the likes of NBC's The Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno and toured as a Principal Dancer with Cirque du Soleil. Nakotah was also a talented actor as well and appeared in film and television. He dedicated his life to passing on the cultural dance to the Native youth as a mentor with www.lightningboyfoundation.com. Tragically he walked on in 2020. ShanDien Sonwai LaRance is a talented Champion Hoop Dancer and performer, as well, and now tours with Cirque du Soleil as a principal dancer in their show "Totem".