Daniel Apachito and Kim Henkel, second and third from right, pose with their instructors at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu.
Photos courtesy Kim Henkel

When Magdalena Schools restarted its art department two years ago, instructor Kim Henkel arrived to head the program, to teach students K-12 in the various styles of artistic expression.

Besides painting, sculpture and related forms of art, Henkel, an accomplished artist in her own right, introduced jewelry art to the burgeoning program.

She said one particular student, Daniel Apachito, showed such promise in jewelry-making during the last term she took steps to enroll him in a summer jewelry-making session at Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu. Ghost Ranch was the studio and home of Georgia O-Keefe, and currently offers over 150 retreats and workshops.

Daniel Apachito working on a bracelet in Magdalena.

“He started doing jewelry in my art class and he really liked it,” Henkel said. “So this summer I was able to offer one of the jewelry classes, the Southwest Silver and Stone Beginner’s Workshop, at Ghost Ranch.”

Henkel accompanied Apachito last July, not only as a chaperone but also to brush up on her own skills.

“I took the class with him, not only as a chaperone, but I stayed an extra week,” she said. “I’ve taken many classes there.”

Apachito said he grew up around arts and crafts at his home in Alamo.

“I got interested from my Grandpa. He’s been a silversmith for a long time,” he said. “I always wanted to learn from him but I never asked him. But now we have a jewelry class here at school, so from there, I got a hang of the basics.”

He started doing it on his own about a year ago, he said, producing bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and concha belts.

“I mostly use silver and turquoise but whenever I get special orders I use other stones,” Apachito said. “I usually do custom pieces. If they want something that’s yellow brass and they want turquoise in it, I’ll ask how wide they want the ring, and what their ring size is. Right now I have an order for a yellow brass inlaid ring. They saw one of my rings I made beforehand and wanted one like that … so I already knew what they wanted.”

Working in silver, brass and copper, he said his grandfather, Clark Baca, was a major influence, and that taking the class in Abiquiu gave him more confidence in his skills.

“My grandpa likes what I do. Sometimes he’ll say, yeah that’s a good job and he’ll tell me his experiences working with the materials,” Apachito said. “My grandparents are more accepting of my ability to do it, so they bought me my own equipment as well. So I have my own workbench to work at home.”

The finished product.

He said at the Ghost Ranch class he learned some things from the instructors he hadn’t learned.

“It was a good working environment. All the people were nice,” he said. “I learned some tips, some things I didn’t know. I learned about channel inlaying where you shape the rock instead of crushing it. It was for a bracelet, one of my first pieces. A channel inlay on a silver bracelet with malachite. That was my first silver inlay. Lately, I’ve been working more with silver.”

Apachito is already selling his pieces.

“I do sell my stuff at my grandparents’ shop in Magdalena, C&S Morningstar, on the corner of Highway 60 and Ash Street,” he said. “My grandmother, Shirley Baca, does traditional Navajo weaving. She makes rugs and blankets and all that. Most of my family are artists.”

Henkel said the trip to Ghost Ranch was inspirational for the 16-year-old artist.

“Daniel was enjoying it as a student and is conscientious. He’s on top of things,” she said. “He’s a student I trusted as being responsible, and he was serious about what he was doing. I just thought it was a good opportunity to give him a chance to immerse himself in a studio with all its advantages. To work beside all the other students and instructors.”

When not at his workbench working with turquoise, malachite and non-ferrous metals, you can find Apachito on the Steers’ offensive line during football games.